After studying abroad for a semester, coming back to the workload and social life of school is always tough. As a junior, my classes are becoming much harder and focused towards my degree, and being thrown into everything after a semester abroad is challenging both emotionally and physically. Before I went abroad, the travel coordinator explained to me what “reverse culture shock” is, and at the time I did not think anything of it. Reverse culture shock is when someone returns from living abroad, having been immersed in another culture for a long period of time, and has a tough time getting back into the swing of things at home. When I was told this, I actually thought the opposite: I would love being back surrounded by busy work and all of my friends. But it’s not until you experience it that you face reality. Thankfully, with the help of my professors, advisors and peers I have been able to overcome the reverse culture shock.
When I first returned from Spain in December, I actually made a visit to Lycoming College the very next day because the students on campus were just about to begin finals week. I surprised a majority of my friends and, even though I was jet-lagged, I was so excited to be surrounded by everyone that I had missed throughout my semester abroad. My experience that weekend was great; I got to go to late night breakfast, which is offered the Sunday before finals begins in the cafeteria, and I got to hug all of my sorority sisters. I thought to myself in this moment that I am ready to come back to Lycoming full time, but I thought prematurely.
A month later, I moved in for Spring semester and I thought, once again, I was ready. As the week began on that cold January day, I received the syllabi for my classes. When I organized the tests, assignments and projects in my planner, I realized I had a huge workload. I started to break down. My schedule is so busy this semester and as I looked at it all marked down on paper ,I began to get anxiety. How was I supposed to go from having so much free time in the beautiful country in Spain, to having so much to do in so little time?
Luckily, I wasn’t going through this phase alone. My roommate in Spain, Kaitlyn, is also a junior at Lycoming and we were experiencing the same feelings of being overwhelmed. We found time in our busy schedules to meet up and talk things out. We cried, we shared our feelings, and then we both reminded each other that everything is going to be okay. We already had the guts to travel halfway around the world to study and we just have to approach this semester with open minds. That's the beautiful thing about studying abroad; you learn to adapt. We also have the same caring advisor, Dr. Sandra Kingery, who made a point to meet with us just to catch up and see how we are doing. Lycoming’s faculty cares about the wellbeing of their students and they also want to help you! Dr. Kingery listened to me vent about my crazy campus life, my proposal for MLS colloquium (a final project language majors have to do), and she gave me advice on how to get through this semester.
Now, this might seem doubtful, but if you would have asked me how I was my first week back on campus, I would have told you I was sad and overwhelmed. I might have even told you that I didn’t think I could do this. But just a simple two weeks later, I was back in the game. I’ve adapted to the workload, I’m invested in my schooling, and I’m happy to be surrounded by people who care so deeply about me and who encourage me.
So, for those that want to study abroad, I just want to say that it’s not easy transitioning back, but it is possible. The best thing about coming back to Lycoming is taking what you learned from being abroad and growing. You adapt. And you remember that everything is going to be okay.
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