The Truth About Reverse Culture Shock

Giant's Causeway

So you’ve returned from your journey abroad.

You had the absolute time of your life, made native and international friends who you know will be in your life forever — whether that is because you truly enjoy their presence or you hope to take advantage of their hospitality and knowledge of their city when you return, I’ll leave that up to you. The first week back you recover from jet lag and catch up with your family and friends from your ‘old’ life.

You avoid unpacking your ungodly huge suitcases because you know the moment you do the trip will officially be over. You take out a few items of clothing here and there but refuse to touch the souvenirs you have wrapped up and stored in pockets of your luggage.

Then comes the moment when you have emptied just about every piece of clothing to find that only the souvenirs, pamphlets, maps, and transportation tickets are the only items that remain. They look sad and empty floating around the suitcase that lays on your bedroom floor. The partially torn train tickets and orientation folder from your first week at your new school look up at you and remind you of moments you almost forgot.

Whatever memento it is you find turns into your breaking point and the thing that makes you wonder why you ever left in the first place. Since returning, I have spent hours of my time on airline sites searching for the cheapest way to return to Ireland. I have spent even more hours looking at real-estate and job postings near my adopted city. Anytime I am feeling nostalgic I message the American students I met during my time abroad because I know they are the only ones who can sympathize with my pain. I at least know some of them would split the costs and move with me in a heartbeat…

That’s what you get when you study abroad. Reverse culture shock is bigger than anyone could have ever prepared me for, but it’s worth it. That warm feeling I get any time I think about my experience abroad will never go away. It reminds me of how special and unforgettable of an adventure it all was. No one can ever take away those memories and the connection I now and forever will have with Ireland. It’s home. It’s where I set goals and made promises to myself on how I will never settle for a life less than extraordinary because that’s all my trip was. I made a promise once I left to continue to step out of my comfort zone, talk to strangers and go on spontaneous adventures.

I was blessed with the opportunity to spoil myself with rich experiences that in the end led me to setting high standards and expectations for myself — but isn’t that the life we all deserve?

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