Post study abroad blues
You immersed yourself into an entirely new culture. You studied hard and adapted to a new education system. You made new friends and had the time of your life. And now you’ve arrived home. Welcome to post-study abroad blues.
The study abroad experience is a phenomenal way to discover your capabilities, to make friends from all around the globe, and to travel. Despite the opportunity being absolutely worthwhile, post-study abroad depression is a very real problem that should not be whitewashed by universities. On returning home, many students feel empty, displaced, and homesick for their host country. Adapting to a new environment is a challenge but adapting to an old one can be just as tough.
Reverse culture shock
Not just the obvious differences like language and currency can seem odd, but the way people interact with one another. I studied in Denmark, where the culture is infused with trust in one another, social equality, and ‘hygge‘ (‘enjoying the good things in life’), and I find myself missing this. It is easy to develop new habits and norms when you are immersed in a different culture, so the adjustment phase when returning home may take some time.
My family and friends are probably very bored of hearing about how great the Danes are, or complaints about how Danish beer brands are far superior to British ones. Try not to romanticise aspects of your adopted culture. Yes, your host country is brilliant, but not necessarily better. Learning to embrace cultural differences is just one of the benefits of spending so long in another culture. When the wistfulness kicks in, remind yourself of the things you love about your own culture.
It’s quite a shock to return home alone after an intense few months having adventures with your friends abroad. Nothing brings people together like a shared experience, and some days it can feel like nobody at home understands how you feel or can relate to you. It is important to not let this lead to withdrawal from your friends and family, as this worsens the feeling of isolation.
There is a simple solution to this one! It is easier than ever to contact your foreign friends instantly through social media. Skyping or WhatsApp messaging are great ways to keep in contact with your buddies from abroad, and it’s likely they are finding being at home just as difficult and strange as you are. And confide in your friends and family at home about how you’re feeling: support is there if you need it.
When you’re abroad, everything is exciting. Every weekend is filled with the discoveries of new places and new people. Coming home is the opposite of that. You’re back in familiar surroundings with familiar people, and that might make you feel quite flat. After the initial reunions and long catch-ups with all the people you’ve missed for months on end, it’s difficult to adjust to the slower pace of home life. To combat the adventure withdrawal, try to find new, fun places in or around your hometown. There might be a cute café that you’ve never been to or a new attraction that opened while you were away.
Studying abroad is an amazing experience that creates memories and friends that will last a lifetime. In contrast, post-study abroad blues is temporary: it is just a possible side effect and should not alter your attitude if you are considering studying abroad. Essentially, it shows just how meaningful and life-changing your time away was, and it’s all the more special for being so fleeting.
The experience will change you in many ways. A lot of students find that they are more confident, compassionate and adaptable after their experience. Your limits are pushed, and your perspectives may change. Just think about all the challenging and amazing things you’ve done and tackling your post-study abroad blues will seem minor in comparison.