Back Home After a Semester Away

Headshot of Alexandra Carillo.
Alexandra Carrillo
June 10, 2023
Welcome back to USA airport sign


I have been home for around a month and have had much time to reflect on my post-program return to my life. I have adjusted pretty quickly, but a few factors have helped:

  • I watched videos before leaving on life after study abroad to know what feelings to prepare myself for
  • I studied in a culture similar to my own (being Mexican in Spain)
  • Back home, for me in SoCal, there are many Spanish speakers around me like when I was abroad

While life in the States isn’t 100% Spanish everywhere you go, my area is pretty close. The most important of these would be to prepare yourself mentally for the reverse shock upon returning since the other bullets are unique. Since I did this, there weren’t many hard readjustments. 

Side note: flying back to the States was not chaotic for a few reasons. 1) I got a direct flight from BCN to LAX, so no customs during a layover 2) I left Spain Wednesday midday and landed in California in the evening (which surprisingly wasn’t crowded) 3) Customs was super easy (in my case) 4) My family picked me up and acted like usual (missed the chaos) and finally 5) my first meal back home was In-n-Out and my other family and friends were home to greet me (which I greatly appreciated) 

More tips for studying abroad

  • Packing wise: don’t take all your shoes and clothes! 

If you’re spring semester in Salamanca, I’d suggest (if you’re low maintenance like me) taking 2 weeks of winter clothes, 2 of spring/summer, and walkable, waterproof shoes and sandals.  I didn’t use 1/3 of the items I took (overestimated winter cold/formality) and was frustrated by the lack of space (I had to throw some things out). However, I knew I’d be buying things abroad, so I also bought a second suitcase on the way back. If you’re the same, avoid not planning this out and either have someone visiting you bring back some of your things so you can still use only one suitcase, or pack a second suitcase in yours (like Russian dolls). I didn’t do either so I bought a duffle bag from a bazaar. 

  • Definitely do the spring semester over the fall

Unless you have an important milestone you have to be home for in the spring, go abroad the first half of the year. You can spend winter break getting ready (completing IES Abroad requirements and packing) and celebrating holidays in reunions almost like a send-off, seeing the season change from winter to spring (snow, flowers, rain, and sun!), and you can travel post-program (posted on my Instagram). My last point is the main highlight. After my semester was over, I traveled for two more weeks with my friend Sam from my program (love her).

I felt this was a nice buffer transition since after a hectic end of the semester, I got to relax and go on vacation (weekend trips during school don’t feel the same). Even after I spent an extra two weeks abroad, I got to be home for a month before going on vacation again with my family. And after this vacation, I’ll still have two more months before school starts in the fall. A summer break between semesters, I feel, is a better transition than a winter break. Fall students have to immediately come back home for holidays and school quickly starts up again (not enough of a break in my opinion). 

  • Try to do a program with a friend or someone from your school

While it was great to put myself out there more and make the amazing friends I did, it’s hard coming back home and having no one to talk to about your experience with in person. I can message my friends from abroad, but it is different (the people in your daily life get pretty sick of it after a while haha). It would be nice to have someone in your day-to-day life that you could share the memories with (although this is a great reason to bug my newly made friends :D)

  • Save up for study abroad

For me, my goal was always to travel and explore as much as I could. While in other blogs I’ve written to take your time in each place instead of jumping from city or country, I didn’t learn from my mistake until after jumping as much as possible. I had the funds to do so because I saved money for over a year, but I definitely could have budgeted a lot better. However, I do feel like splurging on myself abroad (which I usually don’t do at home) helped me enjoy my time abroad more.

What to pack abroad 

To wrap this up, I’m going to edit my packing list from my first blog into a finalized version of what I feel you do need abroad (pull up that one for a comparison). If you have other questions, feel free to reach out to me on my socials! This was a great experience that I would love to help others experience.

Clothes and shoes:

  • Asgard waterproof shoes (AMAZING, especially for visiting rainy countries)
  • Adidas shoes for comfort
  • Birkenstocks (or other slide-on sandals)
  • Long sleeve tops (love me some turtlenecks)
  • Pants (1 black, 1 white, 2 denim) 
  • Tan, white, and black undershirts
  • Cropped puffer jacket
  • A jacket that matches most outfits (can be white, black, or denim)
  • Thick socks
  • Scarf
  • Leggings (for the first few weeks of winter to go under your pants)
  • Gloves (I got leather black ones to match my outfits and to still be able to use my phone)
  • Beanie 
  • Spring dress
  • Tees
  • Shorts 
  • Bathing suit
  • PJs (2-3 sets)

Dorm and bathroom items

  • Shower/beach sandals
  • Hair comb and brushes 
  • Toiletries (mini sizes to start me off because I can get some once I arrive since I’m not picky with brands)
  • Deodorant, and Menstrual products (I use specific ones)
  • Hair clips and rubber bands
  • Dorm Slippers (a MUST, floors are dirty)
  • Laundry bag (others used their suitcase on laundry day haha)

Technological items

  • Plug adapter/converter (the U.S. and Europe have different sockets and voltage)
    • try to get a small one to travel with and one with multiple USB ports and cube plug-ins attached to an extension cord to have at your desk (to make sure all my technologies can be charged)
  • Laptop, tablet, phone, earbuds (wire and Bluetooth), and their chargers
  • Portable charger for phone 

For class

  • Glasses
  • Handbag
  • Notebook
  • iPad
  • Stationary pouch

Etc (can be bought abroad)

  • Small purse/pouch 
  • Chapstick
  • Cash in the country's currency
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Room decor
  • Blanket (dorm rooms are cold the first few weeks)
  • Jewelry accessories

I'm sure there's more, but this is all I got for now, it's been fun!

Headshot of Alexandra Carillo.

Alexandra Carrillo

Hi! My name is Alexandra Carrillo and I am a 2nd year at my university. I am studying International Relations and Spanish with emphases in politics and security and Latin American literature. I am from the USA and México and I often travel between the two. My hobbies include embroidering, painting, and reading (my favorite genres are romance and history). A fun fact about me is that I have a twin sister who goes to the same university as me (we are fraternal and people still mix us up!). I look forward to documenting my journey abroad and the people and places I'll meet along the way!

2023 Spring
Home University:
University of Redlands
International Relations
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