During the pre-departure meeting through the Study Abroad Office, they spoke about the reverse culture shock. I sat there and laughed to myself, thinking how I was going to be different from everyone else and would not experience this shock. How could coming back to your home country cause such an adverse effect? While abroad, I had the experience of a lifetime and learned a lot about myself. I successfully hiked a mountain with a 50-pound backpack and ate peanut butter sandwiches for every meal. I created friendships with students from all over the world and traveled from the top to the bottom of the country.
During the last month of my time in New Zealand, I began to count down the days until I came home with the anticipation of seeing my friends and family. As the days quickly approached, I began to recognize that this adventure was officially ending and that I was going to be leaving my second home. I said goodbye to the friends that quickly became my family and adventured back to my first home.
The first week was easy. I woke up to the faces of my closest friends and family every morning and got to relive the adventures that I just completed weeks before. After the awe of the first week, I recognized the differences that had occurred within myself and they began to affect the relationships that I came home to. I was frustrated that others had not changed like I did. I felt like I became a different person, but I came home to the same people that I left, ones who did not change while I was gone. This frustration shown through comments and irrational thoughts of misunderstandings.
As the weeks went on, I began to understand that I was experiencing reverse culture shock, but that I was not experiencing the same emotions that had previously been portrayed. I had to develop an understanding of boundaries and how often to discuss the experiences I had while abroad. I did not have to mention New Zealand every time that I had a falafel or ice cream (although, eating that stuff felt so much cooler over there). I got used to the American style foods again and I slowly developed ways to cope during growth moments. It was a hard transition, and it took me months to be able to move away from these feelings, but after being away from the country for two years, I learned a lot about myself and those around me. Being abroad may feel like it puts a rift in the relationships around you, but by using this time to not only grow as an individual, but to grow as a couple, sibling, child, student, etc. it may allow you to create a stronger bond and overall relationship.
If you, or someone you know is coming back from studying abroad, remember that these feelings will only be temporary. The frustrations, quick tempers and sadness will slowly disappear, and you will have developed the memories of a lifetime. When you have these emotions and feelings, reach out to the friends that you met while abroad and talk through the situations with them. They are most likely feeling the exact same way that you are. Be patient with yourself and others around you and remember to breathe. Soak in these feelings and use them to slowly better yourself.
About the Author – Miranda DeLauter ’19, Spring 2017 Dunedin, New Zealand alumna
Miranda is a senior social work major, who studied abroad during the spring of her sophomore year at Elizabethtown College.
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