I’ve been back in the U.S. for about a week now. I think people underestimate how much your mental and physical health is impacted by the transition you experience when coming home from study abroad. Even though it makes sense to think that your transition when moving to a country outside of the U.S. would be more difficult than coming back, that is far from the truth, at least in my case. In my experience, and from what many of my other friends who have studied abroad have been feeling, these past few weeks have been incredibly tough for a handful of reasons.
When I moved to London, the excitement of it all blocked out most of the stress I was feeling about living in a new country. There was so much to take in and so many new people to meet, that I never really felt anxious or homesick in the first few weeks. The difference about coming home is that you know everything about your environment. Nothing new is here to distract you, and you find yourself faced with the same question, “How was study abroad?” that feels far too broad to simply answer in a few sentences. I’ve found myself struggling to talk about my semester, since I feel like it can come across annoying to others if I talk about all of my travels and experiences. Even though I would love to share my stories and talk about how much of an incredible experience it was, it does feel slightly awkward at times, and I question whether people actually want to hear all about it.
Something that came as a surprise to me was how much my physical health has been impacted. I was traveling nonstop right before I came home, so my body didn’t fully feel the impact of it until I got back. I was more exhausted than I’ve ever been before in the first few days of being home. I thought I wouldn’t feel too jetlagged, but I think that was just wishful thinking. I’ve also been struggling a lot with eating. It’s commonly known that the standard of food and ingredients used in Europe is so much different compared to here in the U.S., so I guess I should have seen this coming. Food has made me feel awful in the past week. Especially when eating out, I’ve found myself feeling sick after most meals.
I think the greatest difficulty I’ve experienced since coming back is in regard to my mental health. I was on such a high for such a prolonged period of time, getting to travel the world and live in one of the most incredible cities, that the come down is unlike anything I’ve experienced. I admit that it’s been hard for me to get out of bed, find motivation to complete certain tasks, and I’ve generally been feeling really down. I loved living in a city that had an unlimited amount of places to explore and experience, so I think that coming back to my small hometown has felt constricting and claustrophobic.
My experience is just one of many, and I also know of many other students who felt relieved and happy to be home. I’ve loved seeing my family and friends, but I do think it’s normal to have feelings of sadness and discomfort after having one of the most life changing experiences. Studying abroad was something I looked forward to for so much of my life, so processing everything I’ve been able to do and accepting that it’s over, has been a tough pill to swallow. Ultimately, I feel so lucky to have been able to study abroad, and now I’m getting ready for my next big adventure.
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<p>Hi there! My name is Helena Haynes and I’m a third year student at Penn State University majoring in Advertising with minors in Information Sciences & Technology and Digital Media Trends & Analytics. I love being involved on campus with things I’m passionate about, and I’ve had the opportunity to serve as President of the Advertising/Public Relations Club, Research/Strategy Co-Lead for our advertising competition team, and as a Print Writer for VALLEY Magazine, a life and style magazine here at Penn State. In my free time you can find me cooking, watching Sex and the City, or spending way too much time on LinkedIn. I’m so excited to be studying abroad in London this semester and I can’t wait to explore the city and learn more about the culture. I hope you follow along on my journey with me!</p>