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My first full week of classes back in the US is under my belt, and it sucked. 

Don’t get me wrong, being back home in the US after my semester abroad has definitely had its perks. I’ve reconnected with the friends and family I had to leave behind, I can drive again, and I have unlimited access to ranch dressing. But adjusting back to US culture and my academic life has been really hard, and frankly it was a struggle no one prepared me for. Aside from that, no one in my life really understands my feelings on the issue, so I’m facing this dilemma with little to no support making it that much harder to readjust. 

The hardest part about adjusting back to my life here is reimposing the academic structure. During my semester abroad I had one course which met once a week, and then two days out of the week I had an internship. This left me with a lot of free time to explore the area and partake in my hobbies like writing and reading. Now with four courses whose classroom time totaling 12 hours, the homework for those classes, and the 25-odd hours I put in at my job, I have a lot  less free time. 

Besides that, I have a lot more on my plate stressing me out. While abroad I made good use of my time because I wasn’t stressed but now when I have free time I tend to veg out with Netflix because I’m so overwhelmed. 

Another factor that is hard to adjust to is the area. I go to school in St. Paul, MN, so a pretty busy city but the feel/vibe here is a lot different from York in the UK. There I could go to the city centre and walk everywhere, making grocery shopping, my internship, and entertainment all fairly easy to get to. In the US our cities are a lot more spread out so commuting between my school, job, and where I need to run errands is a lot more time consuming and frustrating. 

As I mentioned earlier, readjusting to American culture is a lot harder than I expected. Probably the hardest adjustment is nightlife. With the legal drinking age being 18 I could go pretty much anywhere in York to hang out with my friends, even if I wasn’t drinking. In the same category, social drinking is so ingrained in the culture there that most of the student organizations have socials or meetings at the campus bars just to have a pint and chat. Not being of the legal drinking age here restricts me from going to certain locations at night or on the weekends to hang with my friends who are 21 or older. 

Entertainment outlets differ as well. Whereas I could spend my time happily browsing charity shops or small, independent stores on a Saturday, finding those are more difficult here, largely due again to how US cities are laid out. This also ties into the differences in drinking between the two cultures as in York I could grab a drink with friends before going out to dance at a club but here I do not have that option. 

The last area of adjustment that I will point out is the difference in people, and I mean this both boradly and specifically. Broadly, I found the people of York to be very helpful and considerate as well as connected. While strangers weren’t hugging in the streets there is generally more respect for others making shopping, wandering, and even eating more enjoyable.

Outside of the general population, there are the friends I made while abroad. While leaving my friends in the US was hard, there were foundations and the promises that I’d be back to keep those friendships healthy. The friendships I formed there do not have the months or years of foundation that my home friendships do and there is no real promise I’ll ever see them again. I was so fortunate to connect with some great people in such a short amount of time and not seeing them everyday like I had grown accustomed to is a challenge. 

All in all, there is a lot I miss about York and I really would go back in an instant if anyone gave me a chance. But for the time being my home is here and so focusing on the positives and reconnecting with my friends and family keeps me going. 

For anyone who has experienced this or is going through it, here’s my advice: share your stories from abroad with the people you care for most. In sharing your stories you will engage them and give them a window into your experiences abroad, this will help you feel fulfilled in that you get to relive your trip and they will better understand what you went through and who you are now as a result.

Kat McCullum

Hamline '21

English major with Creative Writing tendencies