Regardless of what people tell you, reverse culture shock is a very real thing. After spending nine consecutive months in Europe, I am experiencing reverse culture shock in full force.
I have felt unlike myself, uncomfortable at home and in my hometown, and homesick for Europe. I've spent too much time in bed wishing I was back in Europe. I will also start hysterically crying when someone asks me how I'm feeling or when I notice the subtlest differences between America and Europe.
For example, the toilets have a much more aggressive flush here in the States, you pull the doors open instead of pushing them, and military time isn't a thing. In addition, I can't hop on an hour and a half train to Rome.
It's hard for me to accept the fact that I've changed so much and lived a completely different lifestyle this year. It's an odd feeling seeing friends and not being able to relate to each other's school years.
A part of me feels like time hasn't passed, whereas the other part knows so much has happened within the past several months. It's hard to talk to family and friends about my abroad experiences too, because a) they get bored and b) they weren't living the experiences I was.
If you recently returned from a semester or year abroad like me, here is some helpful tips I've compiled from fellow abroad students and mentors. There is light at the end of the tunnel!
Get into a routine.
This is by far the most important thing to do while coping with reverse culture shock. Start regular eating and exercising habits, finalize a work schedule, and try to keep busy on a daily basis. Having some structure to your day will help you feel more at peace and like yourself!
Do the things you couldn't do while abroad.
I've spent a lot of time playing fetch with my dog, because she wasn't in Europe with me. I also hit up my favorite restaurants that I strongly and positively associate with home. Just going for drives, on hikes, and lacrosse games have brought a sense of familiarity and comfort back into my life.
Try to not compare home with the country you lived in.
I'm still working on this one. It's important to keep your two homes separate, or else you won't be content with where you are. In the wise words of Dr. Seuss, "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."
Talk to the people you were abroad with.
The people you went abroad with are the ones who will relate best to your experience. They're also the ones who are going through a similar transition. Rely on them to be your rocks during this challenging time!
Writing about your feelings and progression isn't a bad idea to relieve stress.
Set small goals.
Remember to focus on what's directly in front of you. Now is not the time to freak out about the far future. Being able to set achievable goals every day (go for a run, cook breakfast, watch only one episode on Netflix, etc...) will replenish your motivation and confidence.
Hang out with friends.
You can use some company! Hang out with friends from home and request that they talk to you about what happened to them while you were away.
Take a break from looking at photos.
Some separation is good. Save yourself from another set of tears and prevent yourself from staring at photos for a little while.
Be patient with yourself.
Your mind and body need time. You may feel frustrated, but know that you don't have to have your sh*t together immediately. Take the time to get back in touch with yourself and figure out what brings you fulfillment now (it's most likely changed). Justin Bieber's right! "You should go and love yourself."
For the next plane ticket. Destination: TBD!