I know it’s been a while since my last post, but let me fill you in! After saying goodbye to my incredible host family, some amazing friends and the most beautiful city, I traveled for over 27 hours to get home to the United States. It was certainly a roller coaster of emotions. By the time I stepped off the plane in Boston, made it through customs, grabbed my bags and made it out to arrivals where my loving family and friends waited for me—I was too delusional to realize that I was finally home. Let’s just say I woke up the next morning, very confused at where I was.
But now, it has been over two weeks, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that my study abroad experience is over. (However, I know this is not the end of my traveling adventures). Everyone seems to be asking me how it feels to be home. In all honesty, it’s amazing, but definitely a mix of emotions. Although I am back with all my favorite people once again, it was sad to leave a place that grew to become a second home.
What is Reverse Culture Shock?
Now, before we left Sevilla, our study abroad program warned us about “Reverse Culture Shock”. Although I’d like to say I didn’t go through culture shock when I first arrived in Spain, I did. And although I’d like to say “Reverse culture shock” doesn’t exist—it does. It’s very difficult to explain exactly what this is, or what it feels like, but I’m going to try to give you a taste of what it was to me.
Basically reverse culture shock is the feeling that you are a stranger in your own home. When someone explained this to me, I didn’t quite understand what they meant so let me try to paint a picture for you.
For almost two days, I struggled to find light-switches in my house. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it gets annoying very quickly. My stomach had a hard time readjusting to American food (maybe because it’s less fresh and more processed than in Spain, but it wasn’t the easiest transition). I wanted to say “gracias” instead of “thank you”, or “perdon” instead of “excuse me” to people. I had to tell myself to speak in English. I even got overwhelmed when I went out to eat for the first time, because of the number of choices on the menu and how frequently the waiter came to check on us. Driving was exhausting and strange to get used to again. I was waking up at 5:00am, wide awake, and falling asleep at 9:00pm. I missed the friends I saw every day in Spain, especially my roommate Kayla. That is what reverse culture shock was for me. Now that I am through with the confusing adjusting phase, I am faced with missing study abroad and traveling.
I am relieved to be home, but there is no doubt I will go through waves of sadness as I talk about my experience and show people pictures of my trips. But I believe that is natural. I miss the sunshine of Sevilla and being able to walk anywhere. I miss sitting by the river and watching the sunset. I miss having futbol (soccer) be the only sport they show on TV in bars and restaurants. I miss telling my host Mom about my day at dinner. I miss being able to legally have a glass of sangria with a meal. I miss jet-setting off to a new country each weekend I miss my host brother making fun of us. But, most of all, I miss the culture and relaxed atmosphere of Spain. It was hard not to enjoy life while abroad, and I will certainly miss that.
Getting over Reverse Culture Shock
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” -Dr. Seuss
Even though a lot about first coming home is tiring and stressful…it passed quickly. I was able to get over the frustration of “reverse culture shock” by spending time doing the things I missed while being away, like hanging with my family and friends. There are so many things that make me happy about being home. I am relieved to eat American food and take a shower in my house, where the temperature of the water stays the same. I can walk into a store and understand (mostly) everything strangers are talking about around me. I can go out to dinner with my boyfriend instead of having “skype dates”. I can watch TV in English, without bad voice-overs on American movies and shows. I can go into a grocery store and have choice (probably too much choice). My milk is stored in the fridge instead of the cabinet. I can wear sweatpants out in public without being judged. I can hang out with my Mom whenever. I can text/call my friends without worrying about a time difference…The list goes on.
The important thing about getting over reverse culture shock is to realize how blessed you were to have the experience of studying abroad in the first place. You can look at your home country through new, well-traveled eyes. You appreciate the presence of your family and friends much more.
The best thing you can do when coming home after an extended period away, is to realize that you can and will most likely go through “reverse culture shock”. Being aware of this will help you to quickly overcome it. Surround yourself with loved ones and keep busy. Attempt to get back into a normal routine as fast as possible. When you’re ready, make a photo book of your time abroad. Try not to dwell on the fact that this adventure is over, but look at it the beginning of many more adventures! xoxo
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can se the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” -Terry Pratchett