Outside Perspectives

A Reflection on Returning to School After Studying Abroad

Summer has vanished, fall has arrived and college students are in the full swing of the semester. For some students, this semester is more difficult than ever because it is their first time back at school after studying abroad. It’s not an easy transition; many students face reverse culture shock when they come back home and have a surprisingly rough time adjusting back to their old lives (Check out some tips on transition back home here).

This post is written by Rachel Billiard, a senior at Hofstra University who returned to America after spending the spring 2018 semester in Perth, Australia. She speaks about overcoming challenges, the different lifestyles at home and abroad and how she now has two families.

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Rachel at Perth’s Crawley Edge Boasted (The Blue Boat House)

People asked me for a while after I returned from Australia how the transition was coming back. The truth is that it’s a loaded question with a two-part answer.

Perhaps the most pertinent and certainly the most difficult transition was the immediate one after returning: wanting to be the same person I was abroad. When I went to Australia I was breaking down self-barriers left and right. From traveling solo, to figuring out cultural differences, I was facing one fear after another, and gaining confidence through doing so. There was an enormous feeling of momentum that allowed me to shut out normal things that would otherwise hold me back like money, time or qualifications when making life choices. The most difficult part of coming back was wanting so desperately not to lose that momentum, while readjusting to the life that honestly hadn’t changed much since I left.

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Sand boarding with friends 

It’s now been roughly three months since I returned from living in Perth for a semester and to my surprise, the nostalgia and love that I felt for the country I left behind has only grown. People always ask how the transition is; however, what many people fail to realize is that even months after returning I’m still transitioning. That’s what happens when you leave a place that genuinely touched your heart. Even now I find myself getting excited about events going on at my old residential college through social media and seeing new “Freshers” and international students going through the same things I went through not long ago.

The thing is, I don’t feel as if I’m remembering my experiences through rose-colored glasses that one might get after an amazing vacation. Sure, I miss the less crowded, cleaner city on the Swan River. Even with its slower, less cut-throat culture than New York, it isn’t just the soft-sanded beaches, Aussie accents, and lower drinking age that makes me miss it all the time. What makes me miss my study abroad home lies in the now everyday reminders of the culture I said goodbye to: from the university classes I currently attend, to my internship, to the friends that make a place home.

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While I am reminded everyday of how lucky I am for the friends and family I have back here, the simple fact remains that I came home to one family, while leaving another behind. It may seem like a lot of emotions all at once: a bittersweet concoction of immense love and sadness for a short chapter of life that’s only going to get further away; but feeling such emotions only allows for growth.

Not all of the experiences I had during Uni in Australia were spectacular, in fact there were many difficult emotional hurdles during my time there. That’s the difference between going on vacation to a place and studying there for nearly five months: I lived there. While my adopted Aussie slang may fade, and memories may reduce more and more to pictures over time, what won’t change is the realization that I could make an entirely foreign place a new home, with new friends and new happiness.

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