It has been a month and a half since I have returned from studying abroad and I have gone through a rollercoaster of emotions. Prior and during my study abroad experience, I was constantly checked on and told what to expect. But no one prepares you for life after the experience. I was not expecting the post-study abroad blues, as I like to call them.
My biggest fear going into my study abroad experience was that I would not enjoy my time there. I had hoped that by the time I was to return back to California that I would not want to leave but that did not happen. Don’t get me wrong–I loved my time in England but I was also ready to come back. In the weeks leading up to my departure, my mind was consumed with what life would be like back in California and all the things that I wanted to do, feeling ready to return to my life back home.
After my flight home, I had three weeks to relax before it was back to the UC Irvine grind. I was jet-lagged for a few days but other than that, I enjoyed my winter break and expected to quickly resume my life at home without any problems.
However, my first two weeks back at UC Irvine were rough. It was as if I did not know how to function in Irvine. I felt oddly out of place and I did not know what to do with myself. Everything just felt strange, from riding the Anteater Express to sitting at my desk and gazing out the window. I had thought about my return for so long, yet there I was unable to get my mind off of England. When I came back to Irvine, I think that is when it really hit me that my study abroad was over.
As I continue to reflect, I think that my transition was much more difficult than anticipated because I never was able to unload my whole experience. I struggled with talking about my time in England with my friends and family. It is very hard to quickly summarize your experience in a few sentences. People would ask me generic questions like “how was studying abroad?” or “how did you enjoy your time in England?” The only way to answer that question was with a simple response of “it was great” or “it was an amazing experience and I learned a lot.” Unless someone asked me specific questions, I could not describe three months with those questions because I did not know exactly what they wanted to hear. Unfortunately, many people did not ask me any follow up questions. Some people may not have been interested while others may not have known what to ask. I was so excited to return and to share my experience because studying abroad was out of my comfort zone. Being a huge life accomplishment, I wanted to tell the whole world about my time in England. To not be able to fully talk about my time was very difficult. Therefore, returning to California felt like waiting for a pin to drop that realistically never will.
Photo by the author
It has also been hard coming to terms with the fact that I will never have an experience like that again. Personally, studying abroad is a once in a lifetime experience. I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to go abroad in the first place but it is hard to accept that the time of my life has come and gone. The memories that I made in England will forever be unique. I will likely never walk through strong winds and pouring rain to a lighthouse on the edge of the cliffs of Dover again or go on a bus tour of Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath with my parents again. It’s difficult to look through all of the pictures I took and reminisce.
Yes, my transition has been much more challenging than expected, but I am slowly adjusting. It’s important to note that adjusting to life back at home takes time. It might take weeks or it might take months. Every person is different. My advice to help make your post-study abroad adjustment a little bit easier is to talk with friends who have studied abroad because they understand what you are going through and know what questions to ask. You should also keep in touch with the friends you made abroad because it will help you feel connected to the country you studied in. My final piece of advice is to plan trips abroad. If you enjoyed the adventure of your study abroad, then make it a point to travel abroad in the future. Study abroad may be over, but there are many more adventures ahead.