Let's Talk About Coming Home from Study Abroad

Study abroad: it’s something you hear a lot about in college.

“It will literally be the best time of your life.” “It flies by, so enjoy it!” Those things are completely true, which is why returning home can be, well, pretty awful. Touching back down in America and the months that follow are not usually included in the study abroad conversation, but they should be.

When you land you’ll be exhausted, but excited to hug your parents, cuddle with your pets and catch up with all of your friends. However, once the initial homecoming excitement fades, somewhat darker feelings can take hold.

One of the most common is the feeling of being an outsider. You’ve lived someplace exciting and had incredible adventures; not to mention, you feel like a completely different person than when you left. You’re excited for the new you. However, you’ll probably find that you don’t actually fit into the space you left behind.

It can be startling to realize that absolutely nothing has changed. Your friends still want to go to that frat party, they’ll still want to date the same people and eat the same food. While it’s the ultimate cliché, you’ve expanded your horizons more than you ever thought possible, and now those things seem so mundane.

On your walk to breakfast at the DC you’ll think about how you’d rather be strolling down the Left Bank with a croissant. When you go out to that cramped, completely unexciting bar downtown, you’ll think about how you’d rather be people watching at a Biergarten on a nice sunny day.

Those thoughts will make you feel isolated.

You’ll stare at your computer screen, willing your fingers to start typing that paper that’s due tomorrow. Instead, your mind wanders to one thing: travel. Before you know it, you’re looking back through your photos from that oh-so-special semester, or obsessively adding pins to your “Wanderlust” board.

It all sounds so silly. You were only in a new country for a relatively short amount of time. Six months? A year? You’ve spent nineteen years in this country. It shouldn’t be hard at all to readjust.

Believe it or not, all of this can lead to a very real thing called Post Study Abroad Depression. Yes, that’s a real-life condition. A first world problem if there ever was one, sure. But it’s something to be aware of.

“Post Study Abroad Depression is a very real problem amongst students returning to their homeland, and like any other disorder or illness, people at risk should be aware of the effects and know how to treat or even prevent it from happening in the first place.”

While nothing will truly make you feel as good as study abroad did (it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience after all), there are ways to ease the transition.

1. Create a travel goal and start saving those pennies

Knowing that you’ll have another adventure soon is enough to ease some of the stress of returning home.

2. Look into alternative plans for after you graduate

There are several ways to go abroad again after graduation.

3. Try something new

Whether it’s a new hobby, restaurant or route to class, changing up your routine can help things seem a little less boring.

4. Keep in touch with your study abroad friends

Life happens and things get busy, but they are truly the only ones who completely understand your experience. They’ll never get sick of reminiscing with you.

5. Create a network of fellow study abroad students at your home university

They’ll probably be happy to try that new Spanish restaurant or watch Notting Hill with you for the bajillionth time. They get it, and you get to hear their fantastic stories, too.

It’s important to keep in mind that not everyone goes through this upon returning home. Each student is unique and handles the change in a different way. However, it’s important to know what might be waiting for you, so you can be prepared.

Now go out and enjoy each and every day in what will always be your second home!

Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7