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Adjusting to Life After Study Abroad

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September 2nd marks the one year anniversary of my arrival in London to study abroad. I was studying in Leicester, a city to the north, but would be spending a month in London before term officially started. I was excited and terrified the moment I stepped off the plane at London Heathrow, but I also felt like I was home. A strange feeling for someone who had, up until that point, lived in the same state for the majority of her life.

London Eye Big Ben Thames River London

I studied abroad at the University of Leicester, a city tucked away in the midlands near Birmingham and Nottingham. A slower paced city, but a city nonetheless. I immediately fell into step in Leicester. I quickly became attuned to my so-called England life and the more time I spent there, the more I realized that going home would be the hardest thing I would ever have to do. When the day came on January 5th, for me to make my way back to the states, I was a wreck. There was a very public breakdown in the airport (mainly due to some trouble with luggage), and six straight hours of silent crying on the plane ride to New York. I watched the first third of about seven different movies to try and distract myself, but nothing worked. When I arrived in New York City I tried desperately to cheer myself up with Dunkin Donuts, but I made a fool of myself when I tried to pay in pounds and not dollars.

I had absolutely no idea how I was going to adjust to life in the states. I had never truly felt homesick before until I left England, and it was a feeling I didn’t know how to process. Studying abroad is a life changing experience, who I am now a year later is not who I was when I left. So how do you deal with that? How do you come back?

Edam Holland

Stay Focused

For most people after you study abroad you still have some school left to finish when you come back. I had one semester. In the beginning I found it hard to focus on my school work and getting back into the routine of being just a normal student. Stay focused. Studying and returning to a routine will help keep your mind off the fact that you aren’t jetting off to a new country every weekend and it will help you assimilate back into your daily life.

Keep Being Adventurous

Just because you are no longer exploring a foreign country doesn’t mean you have to stop having adventures. Explore places you have never been to in your home state. Do an activity you have never done before. Go on a spontaneous trip to another state to visit a friend. Adventure and spontaneity doesn’t just exist over seas.

Make a Plan

Do you want to go back? Make a plan. If you want to pursue a graduate degree, think about doing it abroad. Do you speak another language? Teach English in a foreign country. Check out international internship and volunteer programs. Or simply plan a trip to visit your friends. If you start making plans and working to achieve them, then you won’t get stuck in the “but what if I never go back?” rut. Flights leave for all over the world every single day. You just have to be on one of them. People ask me if it gets easier the longer you are back. For me, it hasn’t, but for others it does. I use that as motivation to return. Coming back is hard, but when you think about it, going back is pretty easy.

Where would you like to return to?

photos via Erin Browne


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2 COMMENTS

  1. This was a great quick read for me. I also sympathize with this experience. I finished University in 2007, and only traveled outside the country once at that point. In 2001, when I was 16, to Germany/France on a school trip.

    Those two weeks abroad, pre 9/11 changed my life forever. After I was laid off from my first job, after graduating University, in 2007, I decided it was time to travel. I went to Norway to visit someone I had started a relationship with. That eventually failed, and I realized, it was an accepted part of my adventures. I never lost that feeling, that I just wasn’t home. i felt very much at home in Norway, and in Germany.

    I didn’t know if there was something wrong with me, or if I was just an outcast. My friends in high school were all glad to be back, I wasn’t.

    Long story short, I assimilated into normal life again, focused on school, and work. Then randomly I won a cruise to Barcelona in 2011, It was like being bitten by a bug all over again. I toured Europe on that cruise, 7 countries in 1 month, and it was all free. Life was pushing me in a direction.

    I went back to Europe to visit several more times, and now I met my partner in The Netherlands. I’m living in Amsterdam.

    Point of the story, is don’t give up! You can come back and visit as much as you want, or you can take a leap of faith and live here, if you think thats a good fit. It was for me, and I couldn’t be more happier, and more alive.

    I have a blog, feel free to check it out on your coffee break.

    http://monst3ramsterdam.blogspot.nl

    I hope you get back to London. I was able to stay there for part of that month in 2011, its a magical city.

    Monst3r

  2. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and share your similar story. I find it makes things easier to see that there are people out there who feel the same way I do. I know I will get back to Europe someday and I can’t wait. Thank you again, this comment made my day!

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