How To Come Home from being Abroad.
A new chapter back home
There are many articles that deal with how to deal with leaving your family, leaving your home town, leaving your school and leaving your friends while you make that leap to studying abroad in somewhere entirely new, but there are not that many about what happens when you come back. Although parting is such sweet sorrow, leaving your family and friends behind in America is just the first step into experiencing new things that will change your life forever. However, how does one deal with coming back to normalcy after traveling all over the world?
Before I left, I dealt with the normal feelings of uncomfortableness and anxiety one is sure to feel before embarking on an adventure, and was only amplified by the fact that I knew I would be spending a year abroad in a country whose language I did not speak fluently. However, once I touched down in Lyon, France, where I would be spending my next 10 months, those feelings were washed away with feelings of excitement. I was lucky to be in a small program for my first semester which only had nine other students in my classes with me because we all quickly became friends.
While traveling abroad, you meet great people that you can spill your heart out to over an ice old Guinness, who you can take a spur of the moment trip to Switzerland with, and who you can reminisce with about American traditions and food. These people who you meet become your family, you trust them because they are in the same situation as you, or because they teach you about new cultures. In some ways, leaving them is harder than leaving the people you have known for years since you grow so close in such a short amount of time.
Not to mention the memories you yourself have created in the place you have been living. I could talk for hours about the views from my host family’s balcony, or the way the kebabs from Tandoori in Vieux Lyon taste, or even the way that I told off a cab driver for taking the long way home after a long night. These are the things that I still think about before I go to sleep. They will always be there with me, but the thing that hurts about leaving is that these things will instead become memories instead of every day life.
So how do you deal with that sad reality when you come back to your original friends and family?
The first step is remembering why you love home. For me, it is driving my little brother around listening to new rap music. It is burritos from Freebirds (a local staple for UCSB attendees and Santa Barbara natives). It is never having to wear a winter coat. My mom’s cooking, my dad’s laugh, my best friend’s voice. All of these things were reasons I missed home while abroad, and coming back meant I would be able to enjoy them all once more.
After you accept that you are going to be able to enjoy all the things you love again whenever you desire, the second step is acknowledging the end. While it was not so difficult for me to leave Lyon during a torrential downpour, I still had to come to terms with the fact that my time abroad was ending. I will probably never eat another tartine at my favorite spot in Lyon, and I might not ever see the French friends I made while at Lyon 2 or IEP Lyon (the two schools I attended while abroad), but I will always be able to remember them fondly. I can find out how to make tartines by a few simple clicks on the internet, but they will never be the tartines that I ate in Lyon. But that is what makes them special. That is why I appreciated them while I was living there; because they are no longer part of my weekly (okay, daily) routine, I had to come to terms with the fact that they were special to me because of the moment, and not solely because they were so delicious. While I ate my last tartine, I savored every bite and knew that I would always look back on them and instantly feel warm and full.
By remembering why you did not want to leave, and by coming to terms with the end, the only next logical step is to remember that not everything is finite. Keeping an open mind about how everything is fluid, it is more likely than not that you will return to wherever you studied in your future. Since you have such strong ties to wherever you were, it will be a great place to bring your significant other, your kids or even your grandkids back one day and be able to say “I remember when”. Knowing that while it is the end of one of your journeys, leaving does not mean it is your last trip ever.
The last step is easy. Start packing. Get in the car. Step onto the plane. Do not get me wrong: this is the hardest part. Packing up your life to come back home after the amazing adventure you had while abroad is difficult, and you will probably cry when you see your collection of metro tickets, or the awesome postcards you have gathered throughout your stay. However, packing is therapeutic. Think of it as you are putting your life back in order to begin a new chapter. A new chapter back at home.
Good luck with your travels, and remember the immortal words of American author Louis L’Amour: “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.”