A New Self in an Old World

By Lauren R. Alexander
Published January 11, 2012

Whether or not you’re ready to come home from studying abroad has little impact on how you feel once you arrive safely in your homeland. As you readjust to life back in the U.S., you’ll likely feel a bit lost, a bit of reverse culture shock and most likely sadness and emptiness as begin to miss the comforts of your study abroad home. Even if you were homesick overseas and were excited about coming back home, it will take a bit of an effort and some time until you feel comfortable in your own home again. As strange as that sounds, don’t forget that you are bringing a new person into an old place, which will take some readjusting. 

Maybe you fear that all of the personal growth you had abroad will soon simmer down as you become accustomed to a once lived lifestyle. Don’t worry, there are a multitude of ways to maintain and integrate the newfound attitude, outlook and personal goals that you acquired from your incredible overseas experience into your at-home lifestyle. 

 1. Keep a journal

Record how you feel day to day, it will help for those times when you just simply can’t put your study abroad experience into words – you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel after venting without even speaking.

2. Keep in close contact

Stay in touch with your friends, both in America and the new ones you've made while overseas. You have Facebook and Skype for a reason. Although at times it may seem like nothing important is going on in your daily life, these friends care about you and can support your transition. Update them…go ahead and tell them about the new music you discovered, or what you ate for dinner.

3. Expect reverse culture shock

Sure you’ve heard of it, but the smallest things could catch you off guard. For some, the currency and restaurant etiquette is quite different. To others, this shock could be more severe. Remember how strange you felt when you first started your study abroad experience, and once you became accustomed to a foreign way of life? Your home way of life became more distant. Flip – now you’re trying to fit into your home as a foreigner.

4. Accept the new you

You are different now compared to who you were a few months ago. The places you traveled and the people you met have all had an effect on your personality and way of life. Perhaps you’re a bit more adventurous now, or more willing to step out of comfort zone. Embrace this.

5. Don’t throw yourself a pity party

Your initial reaction to being home may be to sit in your room, sulk and flip through your photos for hours on end. Feeling like you’ve broken up with a country or friends overseas is a horrible feeling. But feeling sorry for yourself is even worse. It is reasonable to think that no one can possibly understand how you’re feeling – but go ahead talk to friends who have studied abroad. They know the feeling.

6. Realize the benefits of being home

It could be as small as eating your favorite home cooked meal, or not having to pay for your own food. There are definitely more positives than you think.

7. Get out and explore

Get out and see what has changed in your hometown or around your college campus, catch up with old friends and rediscover your favorite places. By throwing yourself into your old familiar lifestyle, soon enough it will seem like your home is actually ‘home’ again. 

8. Appreciate what you have learned

You’ve seen a different way of life and can understand not only other people better, but also yourself. You will probably appreciate this experience more and more as time goes by. 

Just remember, it takes time to become comfortable in a once familiar environment. While it will be nearly impossible to fall back into a previous way of life now that you have experienced personal growth from living overseas, you should take pride in how you will incorporate the new you into your at-home lifestyle. Continue to make the effort to think about how you can integrate your new positive attitude and view for the future with an already existing home life. 

Looking for more information? Check out our study abroad student guide to learn more.

Lauren R. Alexander studied abroad in Melbourne, Australia in 2011. She is currently working towards a BA in Communication and Theater at American University in Washington, DC.