How To Say Goodbye
For most students, this was probably the final week of your study abroad semester. You're either already back in the comfort of the States, or quickly getting ready to make it back in time for Christmas. Whatever your situation, I'm sure this time is going to be bittersweet. You can't wait to see your family and friends back in the U.S., but you don't want to leave your new friends and family abroad. You're excited to go home, but you're going to miss the place you've called home for the last few months.
Make Peace With The Situation
Make sure you do everything you can to accomplish anything you've avoided, forgotten about, or just haven’t had a chance to do. If you have no regrets, then no matter how sad you are you’ll be able to leave knowing the experience you had, the things you learned, and the friends you made will have changed you for the better.
See The Sites
Take time so see any sites you missed over the course of your stay. Where I lived in Scotland, remnants of a castle and a cathedral from the 1300’s were pretty much the defining landmarks of the town. I walked past them every day for an entire year, and it wasn’t until my last week that I actually paid to go explore them, and it was totally worth it. It’s never too late.
Say Your Goodbyes
Take the time to really say goodbye to everyone you met, especially to the people who helped make your experience what it was. Friends, teachers, the cafeteria lady, or even your favorite server at a restaurant. Let them know how much they mean to you.
Make sure you have ways of maintaining communication, even if it’s just through Facebook. They are the people who went with you through your ups and downs, the good and the bad, the happy and the sad. Unlike people back home, they’ll be able to understand exactly what you went through, and are the ones you’ll most likely be able to relate with in the future. Maintain those friendships.
Go Buy Some Stuff
Seriously. Take a couple hours and go buy whatever you’ve been staring at for the whole semester or year. You’ll probably never have the opportunity to buy that hand woven dress or that custom pint glass. For me, it was a golf towel and a few other odds and ends from the Old Course at St. Andrews. Although I'm staying here in Beijing, in the spirit of the semester coming to an end, I spent a few afternoons at the Silk Market buying odds and ends that I had planned on buying all semester.
Don’t worry about how much money you spend at this point. It may seem like a lot at the time, but when you come home and you start making some money at your summer job, what you spent that last week will seem like pocket change. Just be sure you can fit it all in your suitcase on the way home.
Enjoy Being Home
Speaking of home, don’t be surprised if there’s a reverse culture shock when you get back. You’ve just lived a completely different life for a period of several months. It may take some time to get adjusted again.
For some advice on reverse culture shock and re-entry, check out my post “Why No One Likes The Friend That Studied Abroad” on The Study Abroad Blog.
Be aware that not everyone will be happy that you went abroad. Not that they are upset with you, but they may not want to hear about your experiences because either they’re not interested, or more likely because they can't comprehend what you did for the last few months. Do your best associate with the ones that want to hear about your time away and help you get acclimated back home.
Think Back On The Experience
Take it all in one last time. Appreciate the fact that you did something very few students get to do, and treasure that experience for as long as you can. It will be one of the best of your life.