Before you set off on a study abroad adventure, there’s a very big chance you will have to attend various pre-departure sessions. The two main topics of those talks are culture shock and re-entry shock.
I had a good understanding of what culture shock meant before my sessions. But something I had never heard before was re-entry shock. Leaving my family for the first time was painful enough, and the idea of going through culture shock while being homesick seemed like too much to handle. My stomach did somersaults, as we were explained the toll culture shock could have on us emotionally, mentally and physically. As it turned out, I was lucky enough not to go though these, but instead, I’ve been going through re-entry shock, the one thing I thought I had nothing to worry about it. Ho hard could it be to come home?
The thing is, it really snuck up on me. I was overjoyed to be back home for the first month and a half, but after that I felt different in a way I can’t describe. First, I started feeling guilty. I had just arrived from a life changing experiencing, while the lives of everyone at home and my friends had stayed relatively the same. I had stories to tell about London, and I wanted to share my memories with my loved ones. But then I realized that to everyone else, I could be sounding like I was bragging even if those weren’t my intentions. So to avoid allowing people to think I had turned into an arrogant monster, I limited my stores until I eventually stopped talking about them altogether.
I slowly started to feel isolated. I had so much to tell the world on how much I had grown and changed, but now I had to keep it to myself? Then, the worst was to come. It all started to sink in. I really did it. I really had gone to London on my own for a whole semester, I really had been independent, I really can look after myself, and strangely enough, it terrifies me. Don’t get me wrong, this was my main goal to accomplish in London, my independence and I’m so proud, but it hurts to finally realize or admit that I’m an adult.
I’m a college student with responsibilities, but I’ve never felt any different than when I was sixteen. That makes me sound childish and immature in the sense that it pictures me as one of those creepy wannabe teenagers again. Although I’ve always been ready for the future because I know what I want in life, being an adult makes me think, “So, what’s next?” I felt like I died a little inside, at least my childhood was officially dead and now what was I supposed to do? Being a kid is all I’ve ever known. Even if I know what I want in life, I don’t know what I want to be.
Now that school is in session, my emotions are all jumbled and melted together, and not because of this crazy weather we’ve been having. In London I struggled to adjust to their schoolwork because there was hardly any. Of course, I adapted, with no homework, who wouldn’t?
But I’ve always had a lot on my plate, and I was paranoid. I would think there was a possibility a professor had given us an assignment and I wrote down but had forgotten only to be disappointed as I opened up an empty planner, every time.
Since this semester has started I’ve been feeling pretty overwhelmed. Homework, readings, and work are all things I have to get used to doing again. School as mad me feel better by giving me the comfort of knowing I have one year left of being the adult-child hybrid many college students still are…okay, it’s only me, but this way I feel a lot better about myself. Not to mention it’s been quite flattering to have people notice how different I am. It’s been uplifting to have people recognize how much bolder and confident I am now.
I am in no way trying to scare anyone from studying abroad. I only wish to share my experience: not everyone has the same experience. And I am getting better, everyday I feel like myself again, but a better version of myself. I’m nervous by how much I’ve learned about myself, but I’ve never been more optimistic about the future. I have no regrets. I can honestly say it was the best time of my life and I loved every minute of it. It’s funny how we can sometimes think we are so mature and old while those who are older than us see us as children. And even though I am absolutely terrified of this whole new life as an adult, I can also see what our grandparents were talking about. We really are so young, and we really do have a whole life ahead of us. A whole life where I intend to keep exploring the world, and never stop being the best person I can.