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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 March 13, 2019

              How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

              How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

              Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

              You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

              Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

              1. Work on the small tasks.

              When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

              Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

              2. Take a break from your work desk.

              Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

              Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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              3. Upgrade yourself

              Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

              The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

              4. Talk to a friend.

              Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

              Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

              5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

              If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

              Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

              Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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              6. Paint a vision to work towards.

              If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

              Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

              Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

              7. Read a book (or blog).

              The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

              Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

              Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

              8. Have a quick nap.

              If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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              9. Remember why you are doing this.

              Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

              What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

              10. Find some competition.

              Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

              Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

              11. Go exercise.

              Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

              Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

              As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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              Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

              12. Take a good break.

              Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

              Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

              Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

              Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

              More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

              Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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