If you’ve studied abroad, perhaps this evolution of thought sounds familiar.
You arrive to your new foreign home….
Phase 1- “I’m in LOVE! I’m in LOVE and I don’t care who knows it!” -Elf
Awe, the study abroad honeymoon phase. Romantic. Beautiful. Surreal. Fleeting.
Phase 2- “Is this real life? *proceeds to scream*” -David after dentist
If you for some reason missed this 2009 Internet phenomena, I’ll save you the youtube search: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txqiwrbYGrs
The “is this real life” stage is weird. It may happen week 2 or it may even take until month 2 to fully sink in. The question shouldn’t be when it will happen, it should be how do you cope with this radically unfamiliar lifestyle when you embrace the transition from fantasy-feeling to real life. Yikes.
Phase 3- “I know that I can’t take no more. It ain’t no lie…. Baby bye bye bye.” -NSync
In this phase, you can no longer ignore the pounding alarm that blasts, “You’re homesick, you’re homesick, you’re HOMESICK.” For some, this phase culminates into a huge, climactic whirlwind that might look like a night spent crying and staring at the ceiling wishing someone would hurry up and invent a transportation device already. For others, it may look like a terribly lonely stroll down a beautiful street of *insert cool foreign city* all the while wishing you were able to share this experience with someone you love. The novelty has officially worn off and the quirks, sounds and smells of your new home are no longer desirable. At this point you might say, “Hmmm this feels fishy. I want out.” Then Jonah in his whale responds, “Uh, you’re telling me.” If you happen to have traveled to Venice, maybe you can especially relate here. Love you Venezia, really, I do. But while parading your streets I couldn’t help but think of Mr. Krabs as he so eloquently phrased, “Do you smell it? That smell. A kind of smelly smell. The smelly smell that smells… smelly.”
Phase 4- By this phase you perhaps completed an impressive 180 flip.
If so, congratulations! The honeymoon phase comes full circle and your life’s new love song may sound something like this…
Never gonna give you up
Never gonna let you down
Never gonna run around and desert you
Never gonna make you cry
Never gonna say goodbye
The last line you belt out passionately. You sing it even shamelessly off key because nothing can separate you from your new gloriously foreign life. Except perhaps the inevitable quarter/semester clock ticking, the looming responsibilities waiting for you at home, and the reality that this life abroad is actually quite temporal. So there’s that.
Before you know it, you’re sitting in a lecture hall back at Western thinking, “how can this be happening?” If you’re anything like me, you are probably re-living the “is this real life” phase except this time everyone speaks English and there is a gaping hole in your heart where the gelato used to be. McFlurries cry out to me, “Send my love to your new lover.” Sorry, now I’m officially done trying to be “hip” and “current.”
Jokes aside, if you remember anything from this post, I hope that it is this:
You are not alone.
I bolded that so you would super notice it because it’s that important. In fact, it’s so important that a super cool organization called Lessons From Abroad decided to exist solely so that you could make sense of your education abroad after returning home.
Lessons From Abroad (LFA) understands the emotional roller coaster you’re riding. They want you to know you’re not the only one spinning in circles. So they created a conference where you can swap travel experiences with other study abroad students across the state and realize the same tribulations and loneliness you may be feeling are 100% normal. Pretty cool, huh? I sure thought so. If you are thinking, “Sounds cool but it’s all the way in Seattle and it will take up my WHOLE Saturday and–” STOP. Rewind. Pause. No.
You’ll thank yourself for going. You might even be asked in the future to write a reflection about your experience at the LFA conference. So then you’ll find yourself joyfully reading through old blog posts, browsing travel photos, and watching embarrassing abroad videos that ultimately result in you composing a thank you letter to your former self that reads:
Dear Younger Me,
Remember last January how you decided to attend that Lessons From Abroad conference?
THANK YOU. Good choice. Great move. The best decision you could have made, honestly.
Ha, remember how you were last to leave because you just had to stay behind and thank the hilarious and brilliant keynote speaker for her uplifting and powerful message? She was AMAZING. 10/10 would seek her advice and listen to her speak again.
Also, because of those helpful workshops your resume has never looked sharper. And I know you still think about that video they showed that 100% hit home. Don’t even pretend that it didn’t make you tear up a little bit. Remember meeting those cool guys who lived in France? Don’t forget you saw them crying at the video too. 😉
Man, that was such an incredible day. It was there you learned about the fantastic opportunities to affordably obtain your masters abroad (which you actually might do!) and you gained knowledge about a plethora of world-wide programs to volunteer, work, and study abroad.
Looking back, I remember this conference helped you make this important differentiation: Change is external. Transition is internal.
Physically moving back to America was a big change. Missing the familiarity of your life abroad while learning to appreciate your life at home was a hard transition. Thank God Lessons Abroad helped you with both.
Still today you are overjoyed and full of gratitude to LFA for hosting a special saturday conference that helped bring you back to reality all the while teaching you how to rejoice in soaking up every lesson learned abroad. Even today your experiences from Italy are shaping and reshaping your life. Salutè to that!
P.S. Remember playing with pigeons is only acceptable in Venice. You’ll get weird looks otherwise. Believe me