There’s a lot of writing on how to get ready for study abroad. Things to see, places to go, what to eat. People around you are excited, nervous, and even upset that you’re leaving them for four months. It’s quite the process, and there’s a lot to think about and a lot to prepare for.
What is interesting to me now is that once I returned, it seems assumed that life will go back to normal. But I’ve found that coming back home is an adjustment, too. The experience has been both wonderful and challenging. Most importantly, I’ve loved having my people back. It’s a lot better being in a relationship, for example, when you’re two apartment buildings apart as opposed to 8,000 miles. I also missed my friends and family considerably.
At the same time, however, I’m also busier than I’ve ever been before in my life. Managing classes, interning, staying fit, and a little time for my social life and personal time has been a balancing act. I’ve found myself trying to create time during the day as opposed to doing things when I’m comfortable doing them. I’m getting better at this.
I’m also trying to reflect on my time abroad in a substantial way. I don’t want to jump right back into my life on campus and gradually let my experience abroad fade into distant memory. And what I’ve realized in this transition is that the best way to both remember my time abroad and better adjust to campus is to internalize the values and skills I picked up while I was away.
For example, an important skill I got better at is being adaptable. Initially, it was difficult to plan my daily and weekly schedule, not to mention travels, because everything was so different. However, I learned how to “let things go” a bit, adjust on the fly, and be more adaptable to the ever-present changes in my daily life there. This is certainly relevant to me now, as I balance the most demanding schedule I’ve had yet.
In Asia, I also had to get better at communicating. People who know me and are reading this might laugh. I love to talk. A lot. However, the way I communicated had to change while I was abroad. This was evident whenever I spoke with people local to the area and even with some of the other exchange students from Europe. I had to be clearer and more descriptive with my words, focus on positive body language, and be a more active listener as sometimes it was harder to understand the people I interacted with.
Thinking about these values, even for the purpose of this piece, has been useful. I’ve been able to fondly remember things and experiences I enjoyed while I was there and can now carry forward with me the lessons I learned along the way. Talk soon.