Coming Home: Tips For Beating The Post Study Abroad Blues
So, you’ve just returned from a study abroad program and are feeling a bit low, possibly even post-travel depressed? These can be really confronting and isolating feelings that are difficult to navigate. But they are completely normal and to be expected after the enriching life experience you just had! Read on for a few ideas on how to help you read just to life back in your home country and (hopefully) find some beacons of hope; take what works for you and leave the rest!
1. Share your experience with your loved ones at home:
This one sounds obvious, but it can be more complicated than it seems. Many people struggle with sharing their experience because (naturally) they want to talk about and mention it often, but fear being annoying. Unfortunately, some people get tired of hearing about it really quickly. It’s important to remember that while you were away having amazing, once-in-a-lifetime adventures, very little (if anything) changed at home. Most of your friends probably went through the same motions as they do during most semesters and could be a little jealous. It’s hard to understand the study abroad experience if you haven’t had it yourself. If you’re close with your family, gush to them. You may even have had friends study abroad elsewhere during the same semester, so connect with them and exchange stories! Be aware of who you’re talking to and if they genuinely want to hear your story to avoid being shut down and feeling even more upset.
2. Talk to your friends from abroad:
This is a big one. Some people I’ve spoken to have said that they attempted to limit conversation with their friends from study abroad because they thought it would help them get over their feelings more quickly. This might be good in a break-up context, but in a post-study abroad context this is a recipe for disaster. After all, who knows your experience abroad better than the people who experienced it with you? Odds are they are having similar feelings and want to talk about it, but may be embarrassed. Start a group message to keep in touch, group Skype every once in a while, too. Some of my best friends today are the people I studied abroad with. These friendships are so valuable; nurture them.
3. If you’re comfortable, see a counselor/therapist:
While friends and family can be excellent listeners, they can sometimes try to fix what’s happening, which is frustrating. I am a big advocate for therapy in general, even when life is going well! You can find a counsellor at your home university’s health clinic or an independent practice to help you work through what’s going on. It’s their job to listen and help you delve deeper into what you’re experiencing. They are also there to act as an advocate if you’re having trouble finding motivation in your studies or need an extension on an assignment.
After coming home from my semester abroad, I reconnected with my therapist and it was one of the healthiest decisions I made upon returning home. I could go into her office and just cry if I needed to without feeling judged or like I was ruining everyone else’s time. It was a safe space, which is crucial during such a vulnerable time.
4. Do things that make you happy, or try something new!
This is key! If you enjoy your exercise, maintain that – endorphins make people happy! If you enjoy going to the library, making art, going for coffee, reading, writing, playing video games – make time to do those things and be as present as you can, minimising the urge to use what you enjoy as a distraction.
Something I did when I came home was explore my home city like a tourist. I discovered running trails, great beer, art and more. This got me excited about the now and to appreciate it. I found that if I spent some time enjoying my current space it was a little bit easier to adjust.
5. Feel your feelings:
Above anything else, I am a firm believer in feeling your feelings. Sometimes you just need to be sad and cry, sit with your anxiety, or spend a weekend alone with pizza and ice cream. Doing this every occasionally is totally okay as long it doesn’t become a habit. If it does become a habit, try suggestion number three above.
One of the biggest things to remember is that you survived prior to leaving and you will survive upon returning home. It might be painful and take time, but you will be okay. These suggestions come from my own experience and speaking to my friends about what has worked for them! This is by no means an exhaustive list to beat the post-study abroad blues, so be open and find what works for you!