Studying abroad is a whirlwind experience. If your semester was anything like mine, you will be tested in every way. You will grow in places you didn’t think you could experience growth in. You will see people, food, language, culture, religion, and yourself in a new light. Your senses will be assaulted in the most amazing way. New sights, smells, tastes, sounds and feelings will arise that you have never experienced. You will experience so much in such a short amount of time that coming home might be difficult at first, so I’ve mapped out some steps for transitioning back to life in the States.
Step 1: Relax, Become an American Again
You will return home, and without even realizing it, you will be utterly exhausted. If the jet lag doesn’t wear you out, getting accustomed to home life certainly will. Take time to relax and enjoy the comforts of home again. Watch television, snuggle with your pet, read a book, let your family cook for you. When you return home, it’s likely that you’ll immediately want to share all of your experiences and new knowledge with anyone you can, but I promise if you take time to relax, and regain your thoughts you will not be disappointed you did.
Step 2: Organize and relive your experience
When you feel that you have rested enough and are ready to get back to sharing your experiences, don’t run right to everyone you have been itching to share your stories with. Take a day, dig your memory cards, journals, box of keepsakes, and souvenirs out of your suitcase (which you probably haven’t unpacked yet) and lay it all out. Relive everything.
Look through every photo you took–you will be amazed at how much you did and saw in five months. Make a list of your semester highlights that you want to share with your loved ones and then create a small photo album with photos that can help you tell those stories. This way you won’t leave anything out. When I returned from studying abroad, I was so amped to tell everyone I could about my experience, but I could have shared my knowledge much more effectively had I organized my own thoughts on my experiences and processed everything before sharing with people.
Step 3: Share with Family and Friends
When you feel that you have a good handle on what you want to share with your friends and family, do it. Preach! Share your photos, stories, and feelings with everyone you can. They have all been dying to hear about your semester so share with them everything you can. Share your passion and show them why you fell in love with your host country.
Step 4: Find your abroad at Home
Find places around your city that bring you back to your host country. Study abroad in Thailand? Find your favorite Thai restaurant or a Buddhist temple. South America? Find somewhere you can practice the language and culture you picked up. Europe? Find locations with a European flare. It most likely will not compare to the real thing, which is why you went abroad to experience it in the first place, but it will remind you of how you felt abroad. For me, that was the most important thing: to not lose who I had become when I went abroad.
Step 5: Become a TEAN Ambassador
Lastly, become a Global Ambassador for TEAN. What better way to remember your experience than to share it with those looking to study abroad themselves? Write blog posts about your experience, meet with potential students in person, over the phone or via Skype and answer all the questions they have. Being an ambassador keeps the experience fresh in your memory. Details of your time abroad can slip away so quickly without an effort to remember them. Being an ambassador for TEAN makes you remember details that you won’t want to forget.