What have you missed most about the United States? What will you miss about your host country when your return?
I think that mostly I’ve missed my friends and family in the US. Just being able to hang out with them and be at home and settled in is such a nice feeling (as opposed to having a term that went by so fast where it was hard for things to feel truly settled or permanent in the same way that they do at home).
I’m definitely going to miss going to the pub with my friends in the UK and watching soccer games. I was able to keep up with the Premier League so much better while I was here (it’s easier when the games don’t start at 4:30 am).
It’s strange though, because I’m actually not going home yet. I’m not yet even halfway through my time abroad, but I’m already finished with my term at Essex. After winter break I will be moving to Lille in Northern France for a semester before I return, so it’s still a while before I’ll be home again. In total I spent an awesome 83 days at the University of Essex, and they went by so, so incredibly fast.
Do you think you’ll experience reverse culture shock when you return? Do you have a plan for how you can immerse back into home campus life and share your experience with family and friends?
I don’t know if I’ll experience reverse culture shock. When I eventually get back to Seattle I suppose it’s possible, as there is so much that I can do here that I enjoy which is simply impossible back home (see: going to pubs and watching all the soccer I want, seeing places that just seemed like names in guidebooks before, living in another country and consistently trying new things, etc.), but there’s also so much I’m excited to do when I get back. I think that perhaps it could be positive, as I know I’ll want to do more with my time and get more involved in activities and clubs and communities. I guess I’ll have to come back to this one in a few months…
As I said earlier, when I get back I want to get more involved in campus life. I want to do more and meet more people and try new things. Being surrounded with so many new opportunities has motivated me to think about finding new experiences when I’m back at WWU. In terms of sharing my experience abroad I would love to just talk to them about it! I can talk them through some of my photos (especially the ones with people in them! I’ve got some that I would love to post here but I’m not sure I can get permission from everyone in them) and my notebook/scrapbook I’ve been working on throughout my time abroad.
How do you plan to keep your study abroad experience as a key factor in your life; maintaining friendships, language skills, staying internationally engaged?
I want to stay connected to my friends internationally as much as I can, which is far easier today than it’s ever been before thanks to the internet (but I still want to send a postcard here and there, because I’ve always thought they were fun to get). When I’m back at WWU I’ll be finishing up my French minor and I definitely want to look into the French club on campus as a way of keeping it from getting too rusty. Going forward I would also like to work more with international students on campus if possible; working with AUAP Students in the classroom for example. I did this for a term last year and had a great experience. Eventually I would love to find another opportunity to go abroad (likely after I finish my degree), but until then staying engaged with friends in other countries and international students in Washington would be the best I could ask for to keep learning and thinking globally and locally.
End note: I’ll be posting another set of reflections like this for my time in France, and I can’t wait for the next part of my year to start (as bittersweet as it is to leave the UK even after such a short time – this has been a great experience so far).