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Re-adjusting to Life on Campus after Studying Abroad

So you’ve conquered your semester abroad: you’ve successfully fumbled through a foreign language, mastered complex cultural practices, and navigated your way through confusing subway systems without getting lost. Heading back to college should be a piece of cake, right? Well, not always. Ask anyone who has spent time abroad and they will tell you that “reverse culture shock” is very real and, at times, very difficult to deal with. It’s easy to feel a disconnect between who you were then and who you now are. Re-adjusting to life on campus can seem as hard as adjusting to a completely new country but keeping these five things in mind can help make the transition as smooth as possible.

1. Accept that things are going to be different.

A semester abroad is normally a time of tremendous personal growth. You are bombarded on a daily basis with unique and exciting experiences, and forced to adapt very quickly to a completely new style of living. Unless you completely isolated yourself from the local culture, chances are that you have undergone some major changes since the last time you were on campus. The lives of those around you have also changed in the past semester. New couples have formed and broken up, new friendships have been made, and it’s easy to feel out of the loop at a place where you once felt completely familiar. You may also find yourself getting annoyed with things you previously thought were hilarious, or not really connecting with girls you used to consider your best friends. All these feelings are natural, and the sooner you accept this, the easier it will be to re-adjust. Embrace the changes and the new person you’ve become. There’s no reason to try and force yourself back into a life that you may have outgrown.

2. Get back into a routine.

After spending four months traveling, partying, and exploring a new country, it can be pretty difficult getting back into the schedule of the real world. The fact that you are back to spending nights in the library instead of at the hottest nightclub is depressing, to say the least. However, there is something comforting about settling into a routine. Try to catch up with people you haven’t seen in months, jump back into your extracurricular activities and focus on acing your classes. All these things can remind you of why you fell in love with your campus in the first place, and help you to realize that real life can be as great at your time abroad.

3. Stay connected.

Although establishing a routine is crucial to re-adjustment, it’s easy to quickly get stuck in the rut of everyday life. Sometimes when you are so focused on tedious daily tasks like homework, it almost seems as if your semester abroad never even happened and was just some amazing dream. Finding ways to link your time abroad with your life on campus can help with this. Simple things, such as joining a cultural organization, continuing to study a foreign language or hanging a picture of your host family in your dorm, help to remind you about the crazy adventures you had. It’s also important to keep in touch with the friends you made while traveling. Reminiscing about that time you stayed out till 6am before a final exam or when you got stuck sharing a hostel room with a 65 year old man can keep your memories alive and relieve some of the stress that comes with being back on campus. These people also understand better than anyone the adjustment you are going through, and can give you some additional support.

4.  Take a Risk.

One of the awesome side effects of studying abroad is a major boost in confidence and self-esteem. Once you realize that you are capable of surviving on your own in a totally foreign environment, day to day tasks no longer seem anywhere near as difficult. Use this new attitude to your advantage and continue to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Whether it is running for a leadership position in your sorority, trying out for the campus musical, training for a marathon, or applying for your dream internship, take a chance on something that you’ve always wanted to try but never had the guts to.

 5. Plan ahead for the future.

 

Traveling is often described as a way to “broaden your horizons.” I, however, like to think that my horizons were shattered. Living abroad opens your eyes to the countless opportunities and experiences this world offers, and often has a profound impact on your plans for the future. This effect can range from something as simple as an incurable case of wanderlust to something more drastic, such as the desire to move to a different country after graduation. Start planning for these goals now and use them as motivation when you feel stuck or lost in the monotony of everyday life.

 

Settling back into life on campus isn’t always easy. There are going to be days where you just feel awkward and out of place and homesick for your life abroad. The key is to find the balance between remembering your past, while still focusing on your amazing present.

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