One Round Around the Sun – API Blog

Today’s blog post comes to us from #APIabroad Global Leader and University of Wisconsin Milwaukee student Kelly Limberg. She studied abroad with us in Rome, and you can do the same this fall! Applications for many of our programs are due next month. We recommend you get started on your application early, as it can take a couple weeks to finish it up!

Remember when we were little, and a year would feel like an eternity? But now as adults, you can literally blink, and a year passed? Yeah, me too. Time flies, so you better make sure that you spend each day the way you want to! With that in mind, I fulfilled a dream of studying abroad in the Spring of 2018 in Rome, Italy.  I cannot believe it’s only been a year since returning home.

If you are currently debating studying abroad, say yes and GO! It will be the most rewarding and enriching time of your life; trust me.

As you spend your time in a foreign country, speaking a different language, and seeing things your family and friends back home only dream about, you end up learning more about yourself than you would ever have in your home country.  You become self-reliant, realize you have immense independence, and acquire an open outlook on life. The most rewarding thing about this learning process is that it makes you become a better person and when arriving home those who you surround yourself with will realize it.  

After living in Rome and traveling Europe for four months, I unfortunately had to come home.  I remember the feeling of having to leave my apartment for the last time, saying goodbye to all the friends I had met and probably will never see again, and hardest of all, saying goodbye to the streets I walked on for the past four months.  At the beginning of the semester, I did not think that I would have missed that place as much when I had to leave. Little did I know, once I actually got home, things would be far worse.

Many abroad ‘alumni’ will warn you of the difficulties associated with assimilating back into your home culture.  You really cannot prepare for it until you experience it. I distinctly remember the day I came home and realized how nothing had changed at home.  It certainly made all my home sickness and fear I experienced melt away. I became aware that everyone I surrounded myself with were the same as they were four months ago, while I grew in ways they could not even imagine.  It was a humbling and a special realization that still resonates with me today.

As the days folded, I felt stuck in a mundane routine.  I tried to do things that I had enjoyed prior to studying abroad, but nothing felt as exhilarating as what I did in Rome.  Transitioning back into my life at home was so hard.

I would catch myself crying, daydreaming and even sometimes dreaming about being back in Rome.

Reverse culture shock is a thing, despite what your friends or family may say.  It changes your whole perspective of your home, friends, and family. You may become bitter towards your friends or family because they just do not understand.  At first everyone wants to talk to you and hear about your experiences, however, many people get tired of hearing about your ‘amazing’ experiences and tend to stray away from that topic.  Essentially your thoughts are contained to yourself, which is by far the hardest. Here are some tips to help you adjust back to “real life” after studying abroad.

1. Journal/Self-Reflect

Fortunately, I have been able to assimilate back into normal life.  I was able to do so by reading my journal that I kept through my time in Rome or scrolling through photos from all our adventures.  One channel that never got sick of hearing stories or my complaints was my journal. I journaled frequently once home about everything and anything.  I know everyone is different, but I feel like once you come back from studying abroad you really enjoy being alone. Once coming home, I turned into this person that enjoyed being alone and having a time of reflection, therefore, journaling really helped me in my first few weeks home.

2. Keep in Contact with your Friends!

If you end up meeting good friends, stay in contact with those students because being able to meet up with them from time to time is valuable.  They will add to the 2-hour long story about ‘that one time’ in Europe instead of trying to change the subject. Making friends with those who have studied abroad will help you reflect and assimilate back into ‘normal’ life.  I have been fortunate enough to be able to go on trips and spend weekends with the friends I have made in Italy. Being able to see these ladies from time to time is very helpful even a year later because it keeps those memories fresh.   

3. Stay Busy

Another successful tip you can do to combat reverse culture shock, is to keep yourself busy.  Once you are busy you learn to appreciate your time of R&R while studying abroad. Instead of seeing it as your past, you view it as an experience; the conscious events that make up an individual life.  You become thankful and reflect not only on that experience but every encounter.

After a year later, I have no regrets about studying abroad or even coming home.  Every hardship was worth it, and each experience is even more rewarding a year later.  Now take the leap and start experiencing!

Now, start experiencing!

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