After Effects of Study Abroad

The thought of studying abroad probably does not cross the minds of most college sophomores, but it did mine. Since a young age, I knew I wanted to explore the world. When I was just 19-years-old, my journey of exploration officially began when I got on a plane headed to South Korea. I decided to study abroad for a year in Seoul, South Korea at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies during my sophomore year of college instead of staying in the boring desert of New Mexico. I knew that this decision would change my life, but no one could have ever prepared me for the culture shock I experienced while I was there and the feelings I had after returning to the United States.

 

Photo by Mikael Kristensen on Unsplash

 

My study abroad program ended more than a year ago, but I still think about it every day. I am involved in many organizations and activities related to my study abroad experience. My current job, as a Study Abroad Marketer, at New Mexico State University makes me reflect on my international experiences daily. Every week, I give over 5 presentations to college classes about my study abroad experience and encourage students to study abroad.  I answer students questions about the process and reassure them that study abroad is possible, even if they may feel like they cannot afford it or they simply just think they are not ready. During these presentations, I focus on the great things I got out of my study abroad experience, such as my intermediate ability in the Korean language, but very rarely do I address what it feels like returning to your home country after a year abroad.

For the most part, it was a relief to be back. I got to see my family and finally have a good burger. But there were a lot of things I missed about Korea. I missed the cheap delicious food, and most of all, I missed the friends I made there. When I first returned home, the exchange student friends I had made, also returned to their home countries in Ireland, France, Germany, and other places. But later, most of us made individual plans to return to Korea. Currently, 2 of my friends are living in Korea now and many others visit often, including myself. My Instagram feed is full of pretty Korean cafes and breathtaking Korean landmarks, like Gyeongbokgung palace.

Photo by Yeo Khee on Unsplash

All of these pictures tempt me to buy an overpriced one-way ticket to Korea. This is the main after-effect of a year abroad, simply just the feeling of longing to be back. Of course, there are many others, like sometimes letting a Korean word slip out or constantly craving ramen, but the main struggle is just the feeling of wanting to be there, even if it’s just for one night. Luckily, we do have the invention of planes that can take us anywhere in the world within 24 hours. This fact is remarkable and makes the 6,000 plus miles between the U.S.A and South Korea seem much shorter.

The feeling of longing will probably never go away after a year abroad, but at least there are ways to make it better. Some of my favorite ways to cope with missing Korea is visiting a local Asian cuisine restaurant or spending time talking to my friends here that have also studied abroad before and can sympathize with these feelings I have. I encourage any post-study abroad student to try this and I promise you will feel a lot better.