Saturday, January 17, 2015

Reverse Culture Shock- Yes, It's Real!

It's been almost a full year since I first left America to study abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France for a semester, and I never could have imagined the roller coaster of feelings I'd experience once I returned to Marietta, OH for my senior year.

Thank goodness the Office of Education Abroad prepared me somewhat for Reverse Culture Shock. You see, I had no problems adjusting to life in France. We had a one day orientation program at my school and it was the perfect amount of information to help me adjust to the new culture. I quickly felt at home, and was able to connect both to the culture and to the amazing friends I met. The months flew by, and eventually it was time to say goodbye to my best friends, Alyssa, Taylor, and Greg, amongst other close friends.

I'm an emotional person, but the feelings of saying goodbye to these three, and to my home were unbearable. I avoided packing the entire last week simply because I did not want to leave. And the crazy thing was that I wasn't even leaving France- I had 3 more weeks of traveling with my family.

June 8, 2014 I arrived back in Baltimore, and quickly began readjusting to life, a relatively easy thing to do since it was summer and I could just chill out at home, avoiding actually adjusting to the new changes.

Then it was time to go back to school, something I had been dreading because not only would it not be in France, but Alyssa, Taylor, and Greg wouldn't be there, and it would be my last year of college. All major changes I was not at all prepared for. The first few weeks back at school were rough. I wanted to cry all the time, but physically couldn't. I felt conflicted about missing everyone in France, and about being constantly annoyed by all the little American quirks. I wasn't used to saying hi to people anymore, and it was weird having to make dinner plans, instead of just eating with Danielle (my host mommy). Going to Chapter and other meetings was a pain. I didn't get to walk by the Roi Rene statue or the Cours Mirabeau every day on my way to class. And worst of all was feeling stuck on the weekends, unable to go anywhere exciting. I was miserable. Maybe that sounds a bit melodramatic, but I still hold that you honestly cannot understand the phenomenon until you have experienced it yourself.

I guess my purpose in writing this so long after the fact is to help people understand that studying abroad isn't just fun and games- its a life-changing experience that transforms you at your core. And as amazing as it can be to see loved ones and friends that you've missed, it can make you realize how much you've changed, and how life has continued while you were off having your little adventure. It reminds you that you aren't the center of anything, but another little piece of the rest of the world. And that's a little shocking to your ego.

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