Coming Home From Study Abroad

During the Spring 2014 semester, I was studying abroad in South Korea and writing about my experiences on Her Campus USFSP. My semester abroad finished in June but my blog entries ended in May. I didn’t get to post a final entry about coming back from South Korea since the semester ended early at my home university. Now, I can write the entry I wanted to post and explain how I dealt with reverse culture shock and a few other things I went through.

Before I left South Korea, I went to a huge K-Pop concert called Dream Concert in June. My roommate and I managed to buy VIP tickets, which were expensive but worth it. We had great seats to see our favorite groups perform. 

The following week I signed up to visit a Korean broadcasting company called Arirang. The company aired a show called Simply K-Pop that was very foreign-friendly. Their audiences were mostly foreigners visiting South Korea and it gave them the opportunity to see K-pop groups up close. The show only airs every other week so I was running out of time to sign up. I was waiting for my favorite K-Pop group, U-KISS, to be scheduled to perform. Once the announcement went out, I immediately signed up and managed to get a ticket to go. 

Aside from seeing U-KISS very close, it was interesting to be at Arirang and see how broadcasting works. I was able to see that performances were recorded more than once and the groups can’t stay long to greet their fans. They only have enough time to thank them before they have to leave. We weren’t allowed to use our phones to take pictures, which is common for many Korean broadcasting companies.

This might be hard to believe, but my roommate and I went to a café that was owned by one of the members of the popular K-Pop group, Super Junior. Super Junior is her favorite group so she wanted to go to the café. However, we never expected to see one of the members visiting the café. We met Yesung of Super Junior, who was on active military duty and visiting his parents at the café. We only have the memories of shaking his hand and awkwardly talking to him in English because we weren’t allowed to take pictures.

When it got closer to the move-out date, I couldn’t wait to get home. I wanted to leave Seoul as soon as possible because there was nothing more I could visit and I missed my family. It was hard being away for four months since I’m close to them. I was excited to leave but later I realized I would end up missing Seoul.

The flight home was very long. It was almost 26 hours, flying from Seoul, San Francisco, Newark, and Tampa. By the end of the flights, my legs swelled up from either the lack of movement or the air pressure. I saw my family at the airport and it felt so good being home. The familiarity was something I missed while I was abroad. I could understand the language, drive my car instead of using the subway, and see my pets at home.

My first experience with reverse culture shock was my expectation about going home. I expected everything to be the same as I left it but it turned out things changed. I had two dogs before I left and I came back to find out one of them had run away, so I was down to one pet and it was very hard coping with that. I was expecting to be greeted by both dogs but unfortunately I wasn’t.

Another reverse culture shock stage was the euphoria of returning home. It varies from individuals but the basic understanding of it would be the excitement of going home and expecting your friends and family to listen to all your study abroad stories. My family showed patience listening to my stories but I knew it was getting old. This could cause frustration and misunderstandings but it passes with time and you learn to bring it up once in a while. 

The feelings of frustrations after returning home transitioned to another stage of reverse culture shock where I felt less independent at home than I was in South Korea. Some students who studied abroad might feel the same thing or they unknowingly start criticizing Western culture. I admit I said some things I liked better about South Korea than the U.S.

The good thing was that I moved on and reached the last stage of reverse culture shock, which was acceptance and readjustment to life at home. Everything started to fall back into place but it wasn’t the same as how I left it. I have a new attitude about South Korea and an understanding of their culture and lifestyle. It was something completely new to me but I learned to use the positive aspects of my experience to my home life.

I have moments where I want to return to South Korea because I miss the sights, the nightlife, and being immersed in a culture different from my own. I don’t think I could live there for another four months but I would love to visit South Korea again for a week or two. I feel like I regret not exploring more when I had the chance and I want to make it up by going back.

The friends I made aboard and the adventures I had will always be amazing memories for me. It is a great experience studying abroad and I hope some of you consider trying it out for a semester. Now I can properly end my study abroad posts.