The hardest part about studying abroad: Returning home


A lot of people talk about how hard it is to move, go abroad and leave your home. And of course, it is difficult.

But people focus so much moving abroad, they never really focus on how hard it is to return home, after a crazy, life changing trip or living experience in a different culture. And that’s one of the hardest part of traveling- returning home. Or at least it was for me…

When I found that I was struggling to leave my friends and my life behind, I heard countless times that everything would be right there waiting for me when I returned home. I listened, intently, hoping that everything they were saying was right because at that moment in life, I wanted everything to freeze so that I could return and have the best senior year with my best friends at college.

But when I returned, I felt otherwise.

I wanted people to understand the transformation that I went through when I lived in a different country. I wanted people to want to listen to my stories about all the amazing adventures I had abroad. And as much as I loved returning home to my best friends (well, those who hadn’t graduated) and my sorority house, I wanted it to be a little different- to fit the new “me” that was also a little different.

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Because the reality is, whenever you return home, most everything is the same…. everything except for you.

Sure, when you come back from study abroad in college there are a fair number of people that have graduated and left your college town. For me, my two best friends graduated. Perhaps there were some new restaurants that opened on the main street that everyone goes to happy hour now.

But more noticeably, the people you love are still there. The places that you went to as a kid are still there. And the daily routines that you hated are still there, waiting for you to return to them. People are engaged in the school and work lives just as usual, and your friends still hang out at that same restaurant for taco Tuesday.

For me, these changes did not feel sufficient enough. I felt so different from my former life, almost as though I grew out of my hometown. All I wanted to do was share with everyone your experiences and how you’ve grown.

But no matter how good of a story teller I tried to be or that you might try to be as well,  people aren’t going to want to hear every single story about “that one time I was abroad…” even if they love and care about you because they weren’t there experiencing it with you.

And that’s okay.

Just because you are different doesn’t mean you have to force other people to change too. Find other people to share your stories with: other friends who went abroad, people who want to live abroad, or be like me and start blogging about it.

So for those of you who are lucky to be abroad, enjoy your time and make your memories! And when you take your final plane or trade ride home, keep these reality checks in mind.

For those of you that have already returned home: welcome back! And I wish you the best of luck in your transition into the next chapter of your life.

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