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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Studying Abroad Changed Me And Here's Why

It is one of the craziest experiences life has to offer.

Everyone who has studied abroad typically arrives home fresh and excited, claiming how much it changed them. Most likely, being someone who perhaps never traveled, you hear those words and quickly disregard them. If you've never been abroad, let alone out of your state or town, you won't even remotely understand the mental and emotional rollercoaster that is studying abroad.

I have just returned from a four month stay in Twickenham, England which is a small residential town thirty minutes outside of Central London. And oh my gosh, it is everything.

When I packed up my suitcase in January and headed to this whole new world, I was incredibly scared and nervous. I thought it was a horrible idea. I mean, going outside of my comfort zone? Nope. Not even. Count me out.

But I knew, somehow, that if I skipped this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I would regret it. Every college graduate who did not choose the abroad route encouraged me to go, saying they wished they had taken the chance while they had it. So I followed my heart and ran with it.

I live in a very condensed residential town in the middle of South Jersey where people tend to spend their entire lives in one house with no intention of ever leaving. It's a bubble of the same people doing the same things every day. Essentially this town is a rut and I had to break out.

I have returned to this same town, four months later, and despite everything being the same, I am hanging onto those UK and European memories I made. My mindset changed immensely when I was far away from home. I went through rough times adjusting, and eventually realized I learned more about myself in those four months than any other time in my life.

I accomplished more than I ever would have if I stayed in that little town in New Jersey. I traveled to six different countries, explored twelve different towns and cities, uploaded 566 photos to my Facebook travel album, tanned on the beach in Barcelona, hiked an insane mountain in Switzerland, and got lost numerous amounts of time on the Underground in London. That's just a few of the things I did.

Incredible, blessed, life changing, and grateful are just a few of the words I could use to describe this experience.

Anyone who needs a change of pace, a fresh start, or even has the urge to see the world. Go. Now. And don't look back 'till you get there.

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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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5 Tricks To Getting Cheap Airfares to Europe

Do you want luxury or do you want to travel on the cheap?

Getting flights to Europe can be STRESSFUL. At peak times, airfare to Europe can set you back a grand, easily. That sucks. Here are some tips and tricks that can reduce the price of airfares to Europe.

Don't book too late or too early.
The general way of thinking is that the earlier you book your flights, the cheaper it'll be. This is correct to an extent, but it's also possible to book your flights too early. Studies have shown that the optimum time to book flights to Europe is 7-14 weeks before your trip. Obviously if you book your flight a week before you'll probably have to sell a kidney (or yourself) to pay for it.

Don't visit airline sites regularly.
Have you ever experienced that thing where you check the price of a flight, close the window and come back an hour or so later to book and the price has gone up? You think that was just by chance? Newsflash: it wasn't.

Airlines keep track of your browser cookies and monitor when you search for flights. It's simple economics. By constantly looking at prices, you're telling the airlines that there's a demand for tickets. However, the number (or supply) of tickets always stays the same. What happens when demand increases but supply remains the same? For those of you who were sleeping in your economics class, it means the price goes up.

Use price comparison sites.
Skyscanner, Opodo and Momodo are great examples of sites that compare prices of different airlines and present you with the best ones. Sign up to their email alerts service which lets you know when prices drop or seats become available on existing flights.

Don't be too picky.
If you can't find a direct flight to your destination, don't be afraid to take an indirect one. Stopping over in another country isn't the end of the world, even though it can be annoying. You'd have to decide if you'd prefer to be a couple hundred bucks richer, or have a few extra hours at your actual destination.

Once you're in Europe, that's where the fun starts. Budget airlines like RyanAir, EasyJet and Monarch do really cheap flights within Europe. The planes themselves are usually akin to flying buses with smelly toilets, minimal legroom, and expensive in-flight food that tastes four days old. But hey, do you want luxury or do you want to travel on the cheap?

Buy/fly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Most discount prices are offered early/mid-week, specifically Tuesday and Wednesday. So make a conscious effort to buy and fly on Tuesday and Wednesday. Friday and Sunday are the most expensive due to people going away for the weekend and trying to make it back for work on Monday.

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I'm a Junior and Not Going Abroad

The FOMO isn't kicking in....

As everyone is posting about their acceptance to a study abroad program (has anyone ever even been rejected??) I'm sitting here with my arm in the Tostitos bag trying to decide if i should go get some salsa to add to my snack.
There are plenty of reasons why I decided not to go abroad. I am constantly hearing that "it will be a life changing experience," "you will really grow as a person," or "you will regret it if you don't." I honestly think that's a bunch of bullshit, and if going abroad isn't something you want to do then you shouldn't feel like you have to go.
Being a homebody, I don't know how I would be able to be hours away from my family, in a different time zone, and NOT be sad and lonely. Some people love it, and some people need to see their puppy at least every few weeks, but hey that's just me.
My major is strict as fuck and I don't even think I have enough credits from transferring to take bullshit classes in the middle of Australia without having to take classes over the summer and winter. As great as it would be to play with baby elephants, my duties to biology are calling my name.
Also, my parents would not be willing to pay for a flight abroad, food, AND extra classes over the summer or winter. It's definitely going to suck and sting a little seeing all the abroad pictures flood my Facebook, but instead of wasting the money I know I will be on task with all my classes at my current college (good student, I know).
It would be great to "experience another culture," but I'm pretty content at my college now and I wanna spend as much time here as I can, since I only have four years to call this place my home. Sure it's going to suck when half my friends go abroad and are loving life but honestly I'm pretty content with no big changes happening and staying where I'm comfortable (hate to be that girl and say it).
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I Learned to Drink in Europe

The appropriate way.

Before coming to Italy this fall, I did not drink. Throughout high school, I never felt the urge to drink or get drunk, and my best friends didn't either.

Instead of using alcohol to have fun and entertain ourselves, we used each other's laughter, food, homemade cookies, the gym, Netflix, and spontaneous outings to Target, Starbucks, and Panera.

I was very worried about adjusting to the college social scene, for it has the reputation of parties, bars, and black outs. I was even more worried about being a freshman in a country where the legal drinking age is 18. It turns out that being somewhere where I'm allowed to drink has made the social transition to college easier and more comfortable than I thought it would be. Here's why:

You have the choice.
I don't think lowering the drinking age to 18 is the solution to a make underage people drink less (at least in the United States). However, I do think that 18 year olds should have the freedom and independence to consume or not consume alcohol if they can vote, get married, and enlist in the army. Having the option to drink without the consequences certainly has made the whole concept less intimidating.

It's not as big of a deal.
I'm in a program where I live with approximately 50 other freshmen. We are living in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe where there is so much to do. We aren't stuck in a dorm where we can only socialize at frats, local bars, and house parties where a lot of people drink.

We can go out for dinner and have a glass of wine, or go to a bar for one Sex on the Beach. Or we can go get gelato by the Duomo before having a chill night with Netflix. Since there's so much to do here, there's not a lot of peer pressure to drink. That's something I'm very grateful for.

The drinking culture is different.
I would definitely consider binge drinking as an aspect of American culture. People drink to get drunk, and no one can do anything about it. People get drunk here in Italy too, but the whole idea of drinking is more focused on enjoying meals with a quality glass or two of Chianti Classico red wine.

When I do occasionally drink, it's often at dinner. I like feeling like an Italian and not suffering through a hangover the next day.

There is night life.
Florence has some pretty awesome nightlife whether you want to go for a walk or hit the club or bar. I've found that they're both fun even if you're sober (like I typically am). It's still fun to go out with my friends and dance until the next morning. Therefore, I don't have FOMO just because I'm not drunk.

You feel like an adult.
Being able to drink in Italy makes me feel more like an adult because I already feel like an adult. I'm living in an apartment with three other girls in the heart of the city, cooking for myself, buying toilet paper on a biweekly basis, and budgeting my time and money. Having the opportunity to drink is just another choice that I get to make. I'm thankful that I could have this choice in a setting that isn't pressured because I know it might have been on a traditional campus.

Drinking is 100 percent a personal decision that should be respected by everyone. Learning to drink in Europe has certainly been a positive experience.