The summer after my freshman year at Furman, I moved out of my hometown in Massachusetts and drove six hours away to live in a house on Long Island with three strangers and work at a bakery. The three strangers happened to all be girls who were 2-5 years older than me, and together we had a summer that felt like every coming-of-age movie jumbled together. I grew a lot that summer. Not only was I working my first real job and learning all the responsibilities of living on my own, I was also going through a massive time of self-discovery with the help of my new friends.
As all good things do, that summer came to a close, and it was time to go back to school. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited to go back to school and see all of my friends again, but I was also heartbroken to be leaving my new friends and my job. I moved back to campus and the first month of school was amazing. I saw all of my friends again, and the excitement of everyone being back on campus was in full swing. After that first month, the magic of being back on campus fizzled away, and there were fewer things to distract me from the sadness that had been lurking behind all of my new happy memories.
All of the sadness that I had been trying to run away from hit me with full force. I began to lose myself and could no longer see the reason why I was here at school. I grew so much over the summer, and now I am back where I was before with my old friends. Friends who at the time I felt expected a different version of myself than who I had become. I missed biking to the beach every day after work. I missed romping around Sag Harbor. I missed my new friends. I missed our summer. mMost of all, I missed who I was that summer. Every time I looked at the clock, I would imagine what I would be doing at that moment if I were still in New York. All I wanted to do was facetime my friends from the bakery and mourn the summer and the version of myself that I thought I could no longer be. This sadness ultimately overwhelmed my life. I became a shitty person to those around me, and for the longest time, I could not see an exit for what I was feeling.
Eventually, I went to counseling to understand what I was feeling and started climbing out of this hole in my heart. I told my counselor what I was feeling, and she said to me that everything I was feeling was normal. It sounded like I was having post-study abroad depression (PSAD). This explanation blew my mind. I could not believe that I had never heard of PSAD before when people talked about going abroad. It was also shocking to me how common PSAD is for other people, so much so that there is a counseling group on my campus to help support students coming back from their trips abroad that may also be suffering from PSAD.
After having my feelings validated and explained, I was finally able to take steps towards feeling better. I got involved in new things, tried to meet people, and became a better friend to the people I cared about. Most importantly, I realized that I didn’t have to leave the version of myself that I had become in the past. I could continue building on top of that version and adapt her to life back at school.
To anyone struggling with the adjustment period of coming back to school after going abroad or having a life-changing summer, what you feel is normal. This adjustment period is challenging and, at times, incredibly overwhelming. My advice would be to find new things to explore in the area you are moving back to and keep the magic of growing alive. Find something from your time away and adapt it into something you can do at school. Above all, be kind to yourself, and don’t be afraid to reach out to people and get the support you need to get back into the swing of things and continue to build the best version of yourself.