There’s no doubt that studying abroad is life-changing. By moving to a foreign country for a few months, I gained a new perspective not only on the world but also on my home country. I saw in-depth details of life in Europe and grew to love them dearly. The food, the people, and even the public transportation system captured a piece of my heart forever. I learned lessons that have prepared me for life in ways that remaining in the U.S. would not have allowed. I also experienced a ton of reverse culture shock when I came home.
Because my semester abroad was so beneficial, it’s not hard to see why returning home was such a struggle. Ultimately, experiencing reverse culture shock was challenging, but worthwhile.
About Growing Through Reverse Culture Shock
I loved my life in France. It was nearly perfect, complete with great classes, loving friends, an amazing host mom, and a supportive church. Fortunately, I was also able to travel to several other countries and cities during my time abroad in addition to immersing myself in the city in which I was living.
Me in Greece!
My love for each bit of the life I lived in France made coming home so much harder.
The sweetness of thriving in a different culture turned to struggle as I returned home to the life I had happily left behind for a semester. Having gained a new perspective while in Europe, I had to learn how to use that perspective shift and how to apply it to my life in the U.S. It wasn’t easy and I sometimes felt alone in the journey of readjusting.
Was it worth it?
Now on the other side of growing through reverse culture shock, I can say that it was worth the pain and that through it I learned even more about international experiences. Being able to talk with friends that had similar experiences helped me process and savor everything I learned while abroad. Since they too had a perspective shift, they understood where I was coming from and why I viewed things the way I did. Discussing these changes in mindset has given me the chance to further grow and become comfortable with change.
Me presenting at a Lessons From Abroad conference after returning home.
Continued Growth After Study Abroad
But these are not the only benefits of studying abroad. Living in another country comes with learning how to be culturally aware. Adjusting to a different city, people group, and language have a way of forcing study abroad students to adopt traits of flexibility, compassion, and open-mindedness. As my semester abroad continued to permeate every aspect of my life after I returned, I also continued to benefit from these skills I gained abroad.
Skills I learned abroad
- My internship at a travel agency in France taught me clear communication and time management.
- Living with a host mom taught me flexibility.
- Attending church and Bible study taught me compassion.
Even now, these lessons continue to teach me and prepare me for the next time I will travel abroad. Having pushed myself outside the comforts of home, I now feel more prepared to graduate college and launch into another chapter of life. Adaptability will be important over the coming years and I have study abroad to thank for giving me practice in that mindset.
I’m more confident now.
Overall, studying abroad instilled in me a certain confidence. I was empowered when I realized I can fly alone, sort out courses alone, go to a cafe or restaurant with people I hardly know, and ask for help when I need it.
I worked hard to make my semester abroad a reality and it turned out to be one of the most important things I’ve ever worked toward. As I overcame the pain of reverse culture shock, I grew in confidence that no matter the situation, everything will work out. Each part of studying abroad —the lessons, the struggles, the memories, the perspective shifts, and the experiences—continue to shape who I am today. My semester in France serves as a reminder that I can have confidence in my abilities and that I must keep my eyes open to lessons that may be just around the corner.