How to Tell Your Loved Ones About Your Experiences Abroad

How will your loved ones and friends at home ever understand what you experienced?

Here’s the thing: they won’t understand. They won’t understand how small you felt in European basilicas, how mouth-watering authentic paella is, or the taste of salty beaches in Brazil. Returning home can be tricky when you want to tell everyone every little detail and show them every picture from your semester or year abroad, and even trickier when they ask questions that seem impossible to answer.

It can be easy to overwhelm your loved ones with every little detail from your experience. In the same vein, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by all of their questions, especially because they might be hard-to-answer questions, like “What was your favorite part about studying abroad?” (the HARDEST question to answer!).

As one of the deans in my program told me, “Your loved ones won’t care what you did while you were overseas. Yeah, they will be happy that you are back, but they won’t care about what you experienced, the people you met, the food you ate…,”. From experience, I say I have to agree… at least a little bit. Your mom might want to see every single picture from every day trip and city you saw (and nights spent in European night clubs). People will be interested in hearing your stories, but not as interested as you may be in telling them.

So you have all these memories, friends, experiences, adventures, and wild nights out – now what?

An excellent piece of advice that was given to me was to practice a “two-minute elevator speech”. You may be wondering, “how the hell can I pack the most amazing semester/ year into two minutes?” Start narrowing it down by thinking of your favorite things: your favorite city, food, trip, adventure, people, etc. After you do this, then you can move on to choosing a couple of these details and why. You will be telling a lot of people about your trip, so practicing your two-minute speech in the mirror is not a dumb idea.

You may also decide to turn to social media to talk about your experience abroad. Personally, I love this method because you can write a story or post a picture one time, and a ton of people can read it or see it whenever, however many times they please. However, one downside of this is most people do not like their feeds clogged with a bunch of photos and posts from the same person. What you might choose to do (and I LOVE doing it this way) is to choose your best photos, or maybe one or two, to post each day or every few days. It is a lot of fun to choose the perfect photo or memory, and to craft it to your social media standards.

As you become re-acclimated with your home country, you will probably feel the need to retell your experiences less because you will finally have the chance to process them. As more time passes, you will recognize when it is appropriate to talk about your experiences, and more importantly, how to talk about your experiences with the people you care about. As time passes, they will ask more specific questions, and you will find opportunities to share what you learned, what you felt, and the sights you saw.

Returning home can be overwhelming for several different reasons, but thinking about what you will tell your loved ones, and how you will tell them certain stories, can relieve some of that pressure. It may be frustrating at first, but as time passes, you will become better at sharing your experiences abroad, and they will become better at understanding (or at least as much as they possibly can!)

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Allyson is a junior at the University of Akron in Ohio, USA. She is pursuing a Bachelor's degree in media production with a minor in anthropology. Allyson kicked off her dream of traveling around the world with Semester at Sea during the Fall 2016 Voyage. She visited 11 countries throughout Europe, Africa, and Latin America. Some of her life goals include road-tripping the entire length of the Pan-American Highway and living on a kibbutz in Israel. Her dream career is to travel around the world making documentaries. To her, the best parts of traveling are learning new things from other people, and constantly hunting for the best cup of coffee in the entire world.


  1. I never really talk about my travels unless I am asked I sort like that the experience is mine and my families ( travel with wife and kids). I guess because there is 4 of us we can always reminisce together and know what we are talking about.

  2. Absolutely! The feeling of being in a place can never really be told to someone and then expect them to feel the same as you felt. But, then we can always turn towards writing it and blogging it. Because words can take you to places you have never been to.

  3. In my experience, most people only care about “are you safe?” I use social media so people don’t have to hear me talk about places they have no interest in. They can engage if they want.

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