Reverse Culture Shock Is A Real Thing
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Reverse Culture Shock Is A Real Thing

So naturally, here are tips to combat it.

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!

Journal.
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."

Start saving.
For the next plane ticket. Destination: TBD!

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Study Abroad Drunk City Guide: Istanbul, Turkey

How to get down with the locals.

I don't think I truly understood the expression "sensory overload" until I traveled to Istanbul. The ancient architecture stacked so close together was one thing, and the fact that the two-continent city straddled a sea-path with constantly hovering pigeons was another.

It was also the genuinely friendly locals, the shouting in the Grand Bazaar, the food from the street stalls, and the hookah smoke that added to the mysticism of the stone alleyways. I suppose, to put it simply,Istanbul is just the epitome of charming.

While studying abroad in Prague, a trip to Istanbul seemed like a no-brainer. If you're in Europe, the Middle East or Asia studying abroad or travelling, find a way to get there. Or, if you're deciding where to study abroad, it's a great choice.

Although the drinking culture here isn't as wildly boisterous as many cities due to Istanbul's close connection with Islam, there are still lot of ways and places to get your drink and fun on.

Get Your Drunk On:
Duty-Free alcohol from your travels
Alcohol is taxed quite heavily in Istanbul, making your guilty-pleasure purchase feel a lot more guilt-ridden. If you can, save yourself some money by buying liquor with a duty-free price tag in an airport during your travels.

Efes Pilsner
The most popular (and one of the only) Turkish beers that you should undoubtedly buy in a tall boy, ?i?e (brown bottle), or f??? (on tap) along your journey. If you're feeling a little extra rowdy,you might upgrade to Efes Extra for that nice 7.5 percent alcohol content.

Raki
Known as "Lion's Milk" by locals, Raki is a brandy made from grapes and raisins that is typically anywhere between 80 to 100 proof. Mixed with water, it turns a milky white. Usually, Raki is drunk while eating small-plate style meals of fish, cheese and bread. It smells and tastes like anise (think licorice), but if you don't mind and you're looking to turn up, this is your Turkish beverage of choice.

How to Cheers:
-Glasses raised and say ?erefe!
-Pronounced: Sher-i-feh
-Translation: "To your Honor"

To Tip or Not to Tip?
If there is no service charge included (check your bill!), you should tip between 5-10 percent of the bill at restaurants, cafes and bars. Be prepared to leave this amount in cash!

Get Rowdy At:
Istalkal Street
At night, this avenue is inundated with people drinking. The bars on the main avenue are a bit pricey, but wander down any given side street and you'll see bar after bar teeming with interesting people to drink with.

Eski Beruit
One of the most popular drinking joints for study abroad students. It gives off the chill vibe of a bar, but still offers plenty of opportunity to dance.

Beat
Also popular with students studyingabroad, this bar is a nice place to kick back, drink beers, and dance to funmusic. It often holds fun events or good drinking specials.

Reinaand Sortie
If you're feeling alittle more classy, hit up these establishments on the Bosphorous in Ortak?y. While you'll pay a bit more than theside bars of Istalkal Street, you'll get a bougie experience worthy of anInstagram (side note: please make sure to use #TurkishDelight in the post).

OtherTips:
Eat the mussels being sold on thestreet as drunk food. They are extremely cheap, but more importantly, mind-blowingly delicious. Plus, you won't feel as bad the next morning knowingthey aren't that many calories. You can thank me later.

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East Coast Culture Shock

Why I went to school across the country, why it sucked, and why I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I grew up in the best place in the world. Ask anyone who knows me well (or even anyone who doesn't) and they'll most likely tell you that I am obsessed with my hometown of Seattle. They'll also probably say something about how I'm a giant hippy.

When I first got to college in Philadelphia, after having lived my whole life in Seattle, I just kept asking myself why I had chosen to do this. I showed up in August wearing Birkenstocks, with a gluten allergy and lactose intolerance, and a passion for composting and eating organic. I had always heard that there was a huge difference between the East and West coasts, but had never really taken it seriously. After all, it was all the same country, wasn't it? What could really be that different?

I WAS SO WRONG.

The people, the values, the driving, the environment, the food, and the expectations - everything was so incredibly different from what I had known growing up. For months, I felt painfully out of place, convinced that my bold choice to try living across the country, so far away from home, had been a mistake.

My first year of college was not an easy one. I have never questioned my decisions so much before, or had so little faith in myself. However, I learned more in that year about myself, and about life, than I ever thought was possible.

I learned the value of resilience. Two years later, I'm still so grateful that I didn't throw in the towel and move back home. I still miss Seattle and cherish the time I get to spend there, but I've found a home in Philly. And that's something I never thought I would be able to say.

I learned how to find happiness, no matter where I am. Books, yoga, music, running - those are things that no matter where I am, make me feel happy and at home. Even if you don't love where you are, it's important to have things like these to fall back on when things get tough.

I learned to have faith in other people. I had amazing friends back home who I had known for what felt like forever, and my mindset towards everyone I met once I got to the East coast was that they wouldn't ever come close to the friends I already had. However, it was the people who I met in Philly at school who were the ones that ended up really making this completely new environment feel like home.

I learned that growing up is hard. Life can be lonely and disappointing, but those are the moments where you learn the most about yourself. Also, even though it's difficult at times, being on your own is actually fucking sick.

So here's my take: Try something new, don't give up on it because you'll learn a lot, and find what makes you happy. Also, don't let anyone talk you out of wearing Birkenstocks or eating organic. Do your thing.

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Growing up Sheltered

Be prepared for a shock

To say it bluntly, I was extremely sheltered growing up. Part of it had to do with my shy nature, and part of it had to do with the protective environment in which I was raised.

I hardly ever ventured out of my comfort zone, and my parents raised me as a "good girl." Either way, I was blissfully unaware of any and all things related to drugs, alcohol, violence, sex, crime, partying, you name it.

I lived in a very nice, extremely safe neighborhood. I had a large house and nothing to worry about. There were a lot of families within the area and the community was tight-knit. I could ride my bike around the block and wave to our backdoor neighbor without a care in the world.

I never once remember my parents talking about money problems or issues about sending me and my siblings to school. In high school I didn't go out, but I told myself that was mainly because I always had volleyball tournaments on the weekends. This was a good excuse, but I didn't explore beyond the lovely confines of my humble abode even when I was free.

I didn't break rules, and I didn't cause trouble. I would find out later that I didn't even know anything about the trouble I could have caused if I had wanted to.

But I arrived at college, and the real world - the real real world - hit me like a wall. People were drinking even though they were under 21, people snuck into bars and partied until three in the morning. I'd only ever stayed up that late to finish homework assignments or study.

The dorm hallways sometimes smelled suspiciously of herbal substances, and beer cans filled the trash rooms. My friends sometimes just decided to cut class for no reason. I couldn't wrap my head around it.

On top of that, I go to school in Ohio. And like most places, there are "good" and "bad" parts of the city I live in. I had never lived in or anywhere near a bad neighborhood and therefore knew nothing about what it would be like. But in this town, I would wake up to emails from the campus police reporting shootings and burglaries that occurred only a few blocks away from my complex.

Freshmen were given the phone number to the campus police at orientation. I learned that walking by yourself on the other side of a certain highway was a bad idea and I also learned to carry my keys in between my knuckles at night. I was in shock. I had never experienced anything like this. And as a college freshman, I was already overwhelmed enough with the adjustment to college life.

I realized that living in a sheltered little "bubble" all my life did not do me well in college. I was unprepared for the reality of reality. I spent a lot of time in my dorm room as a freshman, attended about three parties the whole year, and always made excuses to stay in. I adjusted slowly, but that was after a whole school year and then some.

What I believed to be the norm was actually quite misconstrued. I had to accept that college kids drank, smoked, and partied. I was the odd man out by refusing a beer, which is what I'd believed to be the "right" thing to do as a 19-year-old freshman.

I learned that not all neighborhoods are like mine, pristine and safe, and that struggle and violence are not that uncommon. My eyes were opened, and I gained new perspective, which in retrospect, I am thankful for.

However, the initial shock I received upon popping my beautiful sheltered bubble and venturing into the real world was much more intense that I was expecting. There's nothing wrong with being sheltered. I just wish I could've been more aware.

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I Went to Bathhouses Abroad and Here's What Happened

Yep, I was naked and no, it's actually not that weird.

I'm sure you promised your parents that studying abroad was about getting cultured. Admittedly, the drinking part is fun. The club can actually go up on a Tuesday, and you can legally enjoy it under 21 years of age in all your drunken glory. The culture part, though, can be pretty legit, and can materialize in many different ways.

That's where the bathhouses come in. I've had the chance to be a patron at three different kinds of bathhouses. These explorations made for a fun time, a good story, and an authentic glimpse into a culture in which I was a guest. That being said, bathhouses are not for the faint of heart. It's a lot of wondering what you are supposed to be doing and why everyone is naked. Therefore, I have rated my bathhouse experiences so that, should you choose to be a bathhouse patron, you know what's up.

1. Szechenyi Baths, Budapest, Hungary
Here's the deal: This particular bath is much like a large public pool complex with natural hot water springs providing pools inside and outside. During the day, you can go to lounge and bathe, while at night, bath parties liven up the waters. Think study abroad students peeing in the water, slipping their nipples, and probably vomiting a bit. It's like the ultimate study abroad mixer.

Relaxation factor: The hot bath may be soothing on a cold winter day or after a workout, but it's not the epitome of relaxation. Let's just say, if I needed to unwind, this wouldn't be the place.

Comfort level: If being in a bathing suit in a coed environment doesn't irk you, then you should definitely feel comfortable doing this cultural experiment.

Recommendations: Definitely an experience I would recommend once. I'm glad I saw it and smoked cigars on the bath patio like a boss, but I don't know that I feel compelled to return. As for tips, bring a towel and a bag to put your wet bathing suit in.

2. Turkish Bath, Istanbul, Turkey
Here's the deal: Baths vary, but, generally, a Turkish bath is more of a spa event. With my experience, I was ushered into a washing room, where I was stripped of my towel and told to wash myself. Then, the usher lady returned naked, and took me, also naked, to a room, where she laid me down on a marble table and washed me, quite meticulously, with fingers slipping frequently, and her breasts in my face aplenty. Afterwards, I had the option of swimming in a hot bath.

I opted out that because I didn't want to swim naked in front of Turkish men blowing me kisses. I then lounged in a sauna next to my fellow naked foreigner before getting retrieved for an oil massage. Once again, both myself and the masseuse were naked.

Relaxation factor: In between telling myself not to think about all the nudity, the pampering was actually pretty nice. I left feeling clean, soothed and slightly violated. But I'm kind of OK with it...?

Comfort level: This definitely ranks as one of the most uncomfortable "leisure" activities I have ever paid to participate in. Primarily, this discomfort derives from the constant nakedness.

Recommendations: Although my Turkish bath day left me feeling quite exposed, the services did feel nice. I would go again, but, perhaps, check out how legit the place is, even if that involves paying a little more money.

3. Hannashan Hot Springs Korean Bath, Beijing, China

Here's the deal: These types of Korean Baths are actually called hotels, due to their all inclusive buffets, beds, and the 24-hour passes necessary to enter. The day was a cycle of soaking, eating, and lying in saunas. Soaking involved joining around 20 naked women in a hot pool (that should more appropriately be called a Jacuzzi because there was a lot of unintentional rubbing of bodies) for around an hour.

After soaking and then eating, you cycle into the coed sauna room with saunas of varying temperatures (some as high as 90 degrees Celsius) and a rock bed. From there, you continue the cycle of soak, eat, sauna, repeat. You might also pay for additional services, such as the body scrub down (where you lay naked on a marble slab and have a scantily clad woman scrub every inch of skin, get soaked and massaged in milk, and then head to a sauna doused in the milk (left to curdle and wander why this is a thing).

It's actually exactly how Conan makes it out to be.

Relaxation factor: So-so. In one respect, you get to literally and figuratively soak in relaxation. On the other hand, the soak-sauna cycles are actually quite exhausting. And, the saunas are so stupidly hot they don't really make the experience comfortable.

Comfort level: Awkward, but you feel more comfortable as the day goes on, as you forget that you are lounging naked with a room full of strangers.

Recommendations: I might go again, but wouldn't consider regular attendance. Tip: bring headphones to listen to music while you lounge in the rock bed.

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Study Abroad Drunk City Guide: Prague, Czech Republic

Handy drinking tips for your next trip

If Prague were a girl, she would be the girl you always thought was cute. Then you flirt with her and realize she's actually a dime piece: cool, beautiful, wildly fun, and altogether underappreciated.

Prague is a lot more than the John Lennon wall Instagrams that all your friends post while studying abroad there. Prague is the ultimate destination for culture, drinking, and exploration.

With its abundant opportunities to drink, I doubt you even need help getting twisted. Regardless, having studied abroad in this gem of a city, I present this small guide to getting silly:

Get Drunk On:

Pilsner Urquell: Because it's cheaper than water...it's just about being economical, you know? And yes, it is much better that the American variety.

Hot Wine (Svarak): If you're a tourist in the winter and your main priorities are getting drunk and keeping warm, then look no further than the many street vendors selling this magic potion.

Slivovice: A plum brandy that can be cheaply procured in a convenience store. Warning: this stuff is tough to swallow, and definitely strong. If you're looking for a cheap and fast way to get drunk though, Slivovice is your answer.

Ordering a Beer

1. Ask your waiter for a beer: "Pivo Prosim"

  • pronounced: Pee-vo Pro-seem
  • translation: "Beer Please"

2. Indicate how many beers you want:

  • Give a thumbs up for 1 beer
  • Show a thumb and an index finger (L shape with fingers) for 2 beers
  • Keep adding fingers for more beers

3. You might need to indicate small or large:

  • For a large (half liter, or about 16 ounces), say, "Velke"
  • For a small (third of a liter, or about 10 ounces) say "Male"

4. Ask for another (and then another and another): "Jeste jedno pivo, prosim"

  • pronounced: Yesh-te yedno pee-vo pro-seem
  • translation: "Another beer please"

How to Cheers:

Clink glasses while making eye contact and say, "Naz Dravi!"

To tip or not to tip?

Round it up! Round up your tab to the nearest 10, and leave the change (which should amount to around 5-10 koruna)

Get Rowdy At:

Dlouha Street: Around Old Town, this street is home to Roxy, Harley's, James Dean, and a bunch of other fun bars with study abroad students, expats, tourists, and locals getting fucked up together.


Lucerna Music Bar: Right off Wenceslas Square, Lucerna boasts a huge venue to dance the night away. It is known for its 90s and 80s themed nights on the weekend, which promise a great deal of lip-syncing and embarrassing dance moves (that somehow always culminate in a DFMO).

Retro Music Club: During the week, the party gets wild at Retro. Laser lights, stage dancers, and drunk international hotties left and right. You're in for a good time.

U Fleku: A rowdy pub with music, screaming, local Czech food, a brewery museum and many drunk patrons.

The Pub: What's better than a restaurant with taps built into your table that you can pour yourself? A restaurant that has that and screens recording how much each table is drinking so that you can compete with the table beside you (which may or may not cause a bar fight...which we don't necessarily endorse)

Other Tips:

Skip Karlovy Lazne Club (the five-story club): The cover charge is high, the drinks are overpriced, and it's filled with people who are probably under 20.