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The 6 Stages You Go Through After Returning From Study Abroad

The 6 Stages You Go Through After Returning From Study Abroad

Even before I’d decided to study abroad this summer, I knew what I was getting myself into. All my friends had enrolled in semester-long study abroad programs in countries ranging from England and France to Thailand and Japan before me; and I’d watched all of them return the same way – upset, wistful, and of course, seeking comfort by swapping stories with other friends who’d studied abroad.

At first though, I didn’t get it. I scoffed at them, rolling my eyes whenever someone mentioned how something wasn’t “the same” as it was where they’d been. “There’s got to be something here that’s at least similar,” I would say, but to no avail. They were convinced otherwise.

It wasn’t until I returned from London that I finally understood what they were saying. Coming back, nothing felt the same. Even Angry Orchard couldn’t satisfy my cider ale cravings quite like a Koppalberg could. I apologized to my closest friends who I’d openly mocked, confessing they were right. I was wrong. Studying abroad had taken its toll.

Now, before I go into the six stages I, and most everyone who’s studied abroad, went through after returning, I want to say that this is not by any means meant to discourage anyone from studying abroad. I think, if anything, the feelings I went through after were telling of how incredible the experience was; and it was the experience of a lifetime. So don’t think it’s all bad because it’s not – that’s only the nostalgia you feel afterward, you know, in addition to other things.

Here are the six emotional stages you will likely go through after returning from study abroad.

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1.  The Initial Shock Stage

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    This first hit me when I’d arrived in the boarding area for my flight going back to California. After a nightmarish morning involving a high-priced taxi, its sailor-mouthed driver, and several road closures, I’d practically collapsed into the nearest vacant seat I could find. Even in my exhaustion and relief, this stage came in one big wave as I looked out the window to the rainy day outside and realized it was really over. I was returning home.

    For most of my friends though, this stage came later on when they arrived back home. We all underestimate it, but returning to a familiar place after adjusting to a foreign one is surprisingly pretty difficult. It’s almost like picking up a sport after years of being out of practice. You know the movements and techniques, but it feels different the second time around. That’s when you realize it’s because you’re different, which leads me to my second point.

    2. The Depression Stage

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      Unlike many of my friends, this stage came full-force when I boarded the plane heading back to LAX. I must have looked as pathetic as I felt to the couple seated in my row. Sitting in the window seat, I pouted and sighed the entire flight over in between gulps of sparkling wine and non-stop scrolling through 900 pictures worth of trip memories. Yeah, it was pretty dramatic.

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      The next week following my return proved to be just as much, too. I felt like crying even at the mention of London, and actually did on some occasions. Considering it was my first time ever traveling outside the country, I guess I should have expected the intense reaction.  After all, it was a huge cultural shock, but one I’d come to love.

      For those who’ve studied abroad, the hardest part about coming back is going through the depression stage. I mean, think about it, if you were in a completely new country exploring the area and going on adventures almost every day, you’d be depressed too to come back to the same old place and things you’ve been doing you’re entire life. Maybe I’m just spoiled, but that’s the way I see it.  However, while I’ll say this stage is the hardest for those who have studied abroad, I think the next stage is the hardest for those who have to be around you. Mom and Dad, take this as my formal apology for the following stage on this list.

      3. The Tantrum Stage (a.k.a I Hate Everything Stage)

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        Oh boy is this one scary. For a while following the Depression Stage, I went through an anger phase, crossing my arms and turning my nose to anything and everything Californian. Even talking to people who expressed a love of the area was followed by an inner-scoff and immediate disinterest. It was snooty, yes, but I couldn’t help it. All I wanted to do was be back in London; and believe me, it showed.

        My poor parents tried on several occasions to remind me how fortunate I was to live in the area we lived in. My mom even went to the extent of trying to find London-specific things nearby, but her efforts were only met with my tantrum-like response of “it’s not the same!” The thing is though, after a while of feeling angry over the fact nothing is and will ever be the same, you start to get sick of having such a pessimistic mindset. That’s when I finally took my mom’s offer of searching for London-like things near home, which only brought me into the next stage.

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        4. The Substitution Stage

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          Expect to do a lot of research when this stage hits. For about a good week to two weeks time, I went on a near manhunt for anything closely resembling food, activities, or places I’d found in London. I think at one point I spent about two hours on the internet searching for local pubs and stores selling any and all England-specific products. The inner investigator in me had finally surfaced.

          Anywhere I went soon turned into a scavenger hunt. Copious amounts of cheese, baguette bread, cider ale, prosecco, and Indian food were purchased in addition to watching several hours worth of Tudors. And for a time there, I was content with the replacements. They made me feel as though I was still back in London, minus the brownstone buildings and pretty much everything else. However, like all transitional stages, this one soon came to a close when I came to the realization that nothing could replace my experience in London. It was true. Nothing would be the same.

          5. The Realization Stage

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            You could say this stage is almost a lapse back into the Depression Stage, but followed more so by the fact you’ve come to terms with the idea nothing will be the same where you are as it was when you were abroad. The realization stage came suddenly when a friend from my trip sent me a Snapchat of her drinking a Thistly Cross (a cider beer we all tried while visiting Edinburgh) at a bonfire in her hometown. Seeing the picture took me back to that moment when my study abroad course classmates and I were doing the same thing, but together; and that’s when I realized the substitutions could never replace the original. That’s also when I realized I didn’t want to replace the original, which quickly led me into the sixth and final stage of my return back from study abroad.

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            6. The Acceptance Stage

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              It was a long and difficult process to get to this stage, but I’d finally reached it. After weeks of depression, anger, endless searches to find bits of London in the whole of California, and tears, lots of them, I’d accepted the fact that what I experienced there could not be found here; and I was okay with that.

              There’s a certain magic you experience somewhere or at some time or with someone that can’t be relived again, or at least will be different the second time around. The best example I can think of, is that it’s like going to Disneyland as an adult when the last time you went was as a kid. When you’re young, you see things differently. Everything seems brighter, more wonderous, and way more enchanting than it does when you’re older. As an adult, I can say I think I prefer my child-like vision of Disneyland to the Disneyland I visited several months ago.

              But when you come to this stage, you also come to understand something about studying abroad you didn’t fully recognize before – it’s meant to be temporary, and that’s what makes it so special. It’s in our human nature to make the most of an experience when we know it has an expiration date on it; and that’s exactly what I, and all my study abroad friends, did. We made the most out of the time we were given.

              Will I do something similar to it again? I don’t know, but what I do know is that nothing can replace the things, the place, and of course the people I met while abroad. Like I said earlier, it was the experience of a lifetime, but I realize I have many more ahead of me.  After all, I’m still pretty young, and it’s safe to say the bright-eyed kid in me isn’t done growing up just yet.

              Featured photo credit: … via flickr.com

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              Last Updated on January 3, 2020

              The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

              The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

              Are you waiting for life events to turn out the way you want so that you can feel more positive about your life? Do you find yourself having pre-conditions to your sense of well-being, thinking that certain things must happen for you to be happier? Do you think there is no way that your life stresses can make you anything other than “stressed out” and that other people just don’t understand?  If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you might find yourself lingering in the land of negativity for too long!

              The following are some tips to keep positive no matter what comes your way. This post will help you stop looking for what psychologists call “positivity” in all the wrong places!  Here are the ten essential habits of positive people.

              1. Positive people don’t confuse quitting with letting go.

              Instead of hanging on to ideas, beliefs, and even people that are no longer healthy for them, they trust their judgement to let go of negative forces in their lives.  Especially in terms of relationships, they subscribe to The Relationship Prayer which goes:

               I will grant myself the ability to trust the healthy people in my life … 

              To set limits with, or let go of, the negative ones … 

              And to have the wisdom to know the DIFFERENCE!

               2.  Positive people don’t just have a good day – they make a good day.

              Waiting, hoping and wishing seldom have a place in the vocabulary of positive individuals. Rather, they use strong words that are pro-active and not reactive. Passivity leads to a lack of involvement, while positive people get very involved in constructing their lives. They work to make changes to feel better in tough times rather than wish their feelings away.

              3. For the positive person, the past stays in the past.

              Good and bad memories alike stay where they belong – in the past where they happened. They don’t spend much time pining for the good ol’ days because they are too busy making new memories now. The negative pulls from the past are used not for self-flagellation or unproductive regret, but rather productive regret where they use lessons learned as stepping stones towards a better future.

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              4. Show me a positive person and I can show you a grateful person.

              The most positive people are the most grateful people.  They do not focus on the potholes of their lives.  They focus on the pot of gold that awaits them every day, with new smells, sights, feelings and experiences.  They see life as a treasure chest full of wonder.

              5. Rather than being stuck in their limitations, positive people are energized by their possibilities.

              Optimistic people focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do.  They are not fooled to think that there is a perfect solution to every problem, and are confident that there are many solutions and possibilities.  They are not afraid to attempt new solutions to old problems, rather than spin their wheels expecting things to be different this time.  They refuse to be like Charlie Brown expecting that this time Lucy will not pull the football from him!

              6. Positive people do not let their fears interfere with their lives!

              Positive people have observed that those who are defined and pulled back by their fears never really truly live a full life. While proceeding with appropriate caution, they do not let fear keep them from trying new things. They realize that even failures are necessary steps for a successful life. They have confidence that they can get back up when they are knocked down by life events or their own mistakes, due to a strong belief in their personal resilience.

              7. Positive people smile a lot!

              When you feel positive on the inside it is like you are smiling from within, and these smiles are contagious. Furthermore, the more others are with positive people, the more they tend to smile too! They see the lightness in life, and have a sense of humor even when it is about themselves. Positive people have a high degree of self-respect, but refuse to take themselves too seriously!

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              8. People who are positive are great communicators.

              They realize that assertive, confident communication is the only way to connect with others in everyday life.  They avoid judgmental, angry interchanges, and do not let someone else’s blow up give them a reason to react in kind. Rather, they express themselves with tact and finesse.  They also refuse to be non-assertive and let people push them around. They refuse to own problems that belong to someone else.

              9. Positive people realize that if you live long enough, there are times for great pain and sadness.

              One of the most common misperceptions about positive people is that to be positive, you must always be happy. This can not be further from the truth. Anyone who has any depth at all is certainly not happy all the time.  Being sad, angry, disappointed are all essential emotions in life. How else would you ever develop empathy for others if you lived a life of denial and shallow emotions? Positive people do not run from the gamut of emotions, and accept that part of the healing process is to allow themselves to experience all types of feelings, not only the happy ones. A positive person always holds the hope that there is light at the end of the darkness.  

              10. Positive person are empowered people – they refuse to blame others and are not victims in life.

              Positive people seek the help and support of others who are supportive and safe.They limit interactions with those who are toxic in any manner, even if it comes to legal action and physical estrangement such as in the case of abuse. They have identified their own basic human rights, and they respect themselves too much to play the part of a victim. There is no place for holding grudges with a positive mindset. Forgiveness helps positive people become better, not bitter.

              How about you?  How many habits of positive people do you personally find in yourself?  If you lack even a few of these 10 essential habits, you might find that the expected treasure at the end of the rainbow was not all that it was cracked up to be. How could it — if you keep on bringing a negative attitude around?

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              I wish you well in keeping positive, because as we all know, there is certainly nothing positive about being negative!

              Featured photo credit: Janaína Castelo Branco via flickr.com

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