There are many articles that deal with how to deal with leaving your family, leaving your home town, leaving your school and leaving your friends while you make that leap to studying abroad in somewhere entirely new, but there are not that many about what happens when you come back. Although parting is such sweet sorrow, leaving your family and friends behind in America is just the first step into experiencing new things that will change your life forever. However, how does one deal with coming back to normalcy after traveling all over the world?
Both of the times before leaving for studying abroad, I dealt with feelings of uncomfortableness and anxiety, but once I touched down in Lyon, France and in Brisbane, Australia, those feelings were washed away with feelings of excitement.
While traveling abroad, you meet great people that you can spill your heart out to over an ice old Guinness, who you can take a spur of the moment trip to another city with, and who you can reminisce with about American traditions and food. These people who you meet become your family, you trust them because they are in the same situation as you, or because they teach you about new cultures. In some ways, leaving them is harder than leaving the people you have known for years since you grow so close in such a short amount of time.
Not to mention the memories you yourself have created in the place you have been living. I could talk for hours about the views from my host family’s balcony in France, or the way the a flat white tastes when you take your first sip, or how it feels when you hold a sea cucumber in the Great Barrier Reef. These are the things that I still think about before I go to sleep. They will always be there with me, but the thing that hurts about leaving is that these things will instead become memories instead of every day life.
So how do you deal with that sad reality when you come back to your original friends and family?
The first step is remembering why you love home. For me, it is driving my little brother around listening to rap music. It is burritos from Freebirds (a local staple for UCSB attendees and Santa Barbara natives). It is never having to wear a winter coat. My mom’s cooking, my dad’s laugh, my best friend’s voice. All of these things were reasons I missed home while abroad, and coming back meant I would be able to enjoy them all once more.
After accepting that, the second step is acknowledging the end. I will probably never eat another tartine at my favorite spot in Lyon, and I might not ever see the friends I made in Australia again, but I will always be able to remember them fondly. That is why I appreciated them while I was living there; because they are no longer part of my weekly (okay, daily) routine, I had to come to terms with the fact that although they were special to me, that is a chapter behind me now.
The only next logical step is to remember that not everything is finite. By keeping an open mind about how everything is fluid, it is more likely than not that you will return to wherever you studied in your future. Since you have such strong ties to wherever you were, it will be a great place to bring your significant other, your kids or even your grandkids back one day and be able to say “I remember when”. Knowing that while it is the end of one of your journeys, leaving does not mean it is your last trip ever.
The last step is easy. Start packing. Get in the car. Step onto the plane. Do not get me wrong: this is the hardest part. Packing up your life to come back home after the amazing adventure you had while abroad is difficult, and you will probably cry when you see your collection of metro tickets, or the awesome postcards you have gathered throughout your stay. However, packing is therapeutic. Think of it as you are putting your life back in order to begin a new chapter. A new chapter back at home.
Good luck with your travels, and remember the immortal words of American author Louis L’Amour: “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.”