Before going abroad, we were all warned about both culture shock and reverse culture shock. Although I was definitely more concerned about the former, I have definitely had a harder time dealing with the latter. Coming back is usually a tougher transition than people anticipate; this certainly was the case for me. It’s not only the weird process of transitioning back to your life at home, it’s dealing with the sticky and strange situation of being a different person back in your same old environment. I’m terrified of waking up in a few months and feeling like I’m the same person I was before I studied abroad.
This situation is especially strange with people who have known you for a long time, like your parents, who for me, were around for all my major life changes before this one. Personally I hadn’t even realized how much I’ve changed form my semester abroad until I interacted with my parents and close friends. I figured it had only been three and a half months, and that I would just jump back into everything, just with a few new stories under my belt. I quickly realized from those interactions the differences between who I was before and who I am now. The past few weeks that I’ve been home I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make what I feel are positive changes and good attributes that I’ve gained from my semester abroad stick even though it’s over.
What I’ve realized is that your surroundings and situation have a powerful impact on your mindset, and keeping a certain mindset while losing its corresponding environment is certainly a difficult task. For example, being in Madrid really taught me to be a more relaxed and stress free person. Coming back to Penn State and maintaining that mentality seems unreasonable considering the difficult course load I have this coming semester. I realized in Madrid that being stressed and anxious about school all the time definitely wasn’t healthy, and I realized this after knowing what it felt like to go through a semester traveling, having fun and making new friends while still studying and getting good grades. What I’ve decided is I want to work hard and study as usual, but do what I can to avoid getting over stressed about tests and assignments. This means putting in effort when I do not necessarily need to in order to make sure I am always caught up or ahead of class material.
Like I said, coming home has been a more trying experience than I anticipated, and although I am sure I will get through it over the next few weeks, I want to make sure I maintain the important lessons I learned both about myself and others in Madrid.