It’s finals week starting tomorrow, and it’s quite unreal that my semester abroad has come to an end. For the past two weeks, many of my professors have talked to the class about going back to the States and what that might be like. They kept mentioning “reentry shock,” and how it will require time for us to readjust to living in America. Re-entry shock, simply put, is the shock you experience when you return home. More easily put, it’s reverse culture shock.
I took a Cross Cultural Psychology course during my time in Barcelona, and we discussed extensively about what our lives would look like in the coming months as sojourners, or people who undertake a period of temporary residence outside our country of origin. How does living in a new culture impact us? Well, you see, there’s this thing called an emotional roller coaster—the emotions we experience pre-departure, arrival, time abroad, and back home are described as that of a rollercoaster. Yup, that’s right, you experience a lot of ups and downs.
I think it's easier to understand the ups and downs during your time abroad. From the anticipation of departure to arrival confusion, and from the honeymoon period to the period of adjustment, confrontation, adaptation, and assimilation, there is no doubt you will experience a lot of highs and a lot of lows. But going back home? What could be so hard about going back to a place of familiarity? A place you share the same language and culture?
Of course, I don’t consider the U.S. as my “home.” I am an international student at Hope College after all. Regardless, I am going back to school a different person as a result of my study abroad experience, and every change requires an adjustment of some sort. In discussing reentry, many professors here highlighted boredom as the number one element of struggle for study abroad students returning to the US. Being in Spain, it's relatively easy to travel. Most students take advantage of this and travel over the weekends.
Within Spain, I’ve been to Girona, Sitges, Tarragona, Madrid, Montserrat, and planning on visiting Zaragoza. Outside of Spain, I’ve been to Amsterdam, Rome, Lisbon, Paris, London, and currently sitting in the airport in Athens. Truth be told, I probably will not be traveling like this once I’m back in the States. My weekends are about to look very different once I’m back in the States. No itinerary planning, packing, airport security, and unpacking every weekend. What would I do to fill my time over the weekends? This is an example of an adjustment I would need to take. But it’s not as simple as just filling in the time.
Whether you realize it or not, living in a different culture expands your perspective of the world. Once back home, your friends might not be able to relate to you as much as they previously have. You might even find yourself frustrated at how "narrow" some of your family and friends' worldviews appear to you. Maybe you'll become judgmental of the culture you once claimed as your own. These sentiments may feel disappointing, but I think they're meaningful in the sense that they show how much you've grown in just a couple of months. These are testaments of your growth. Ultimately, then, reentry shock isn’t such a bad thing. I think it’s something we can all appreciate.
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<p>Hi, my name is Sanny Yang. I am a senior at Hope College (Holland, MI) studying Political Science and Global Studies. I was born in South Korea but mostly grew up in Lilongwe, Malawi. I am excited to study abroad in Barcelona, Spain and to share this journey with you!</p>