After a year abroad, adjusting to life back on home soil can often be hugely challenging.
As soon as you step off that plane and embark on a daunting year, the first few frantic months are spent overcoming fears and stepping outside comfort zones. Everything from the change in climate, time zone, culture, social norms, what clothes to wear, where to buy groceries, how to take a taxi as well as settling into a new job, all require you to communicate in a foreign language – exhausting, both physically and mentally!
Language is one of the most frustrating hurdles to get over. Making friends, getting your visa, setting up a bank account… language is the key to settling into life and, although it may take many failed attempts, eventually you will find your feet and voice.
Sooner rather than later, you have built yourself a new life and become stronger as a person. You have integrated into your new surroundings, feeling accepted into a previously alien community and culture, so much so, in fact, that you now call this your home. You may even have started to thrive in the seemingly endless possibilities and beautiful opportunities that surround you. Travelling, snorkelling, trying new foods, organising and partaking in community events, exploring subcultures, perhaps caring less about your mobile phone or even trusting somebody enough to begin a romantic relationship.
Sooner rather than later, however, it is time for you to leave. Some may be so brave they decide to remain in their new home. (Un)fortunately, for the rest of us, the importance of and necessity to finish our degree has been hammered into our heads from a very early age, morally obliging the return to the home country.
For many, the year abroad has always been nothing more than part of their degree: a requirement of the course. Briefly dipping their toe into a different way of life but always conscious of the fact that this isn’t forever – sooner rather than later, it will be over. Many anticipate their return with great enthusiasm, excited to see their loved ones, drive their car, wear their favourite jacket, get their hair done, have a Nando’s or return to their beloved student nightclub!
However, there are also many of us who anticipate our return with utter heartbreak. Of course, we have missed and longed for similar home comforts and, above all, to hold our loved ones. There comes a magical moment, however, where we have a life-changing experience. The sudden discovery of something, someone, somewhere that grabs you. You embark on a journey within: a process of change. Conscious of this or not, with every difficult moment you face, your individuality, your knowledge and your heart opens and grows and strengthens.
Sooner rather than later, you’re back on that plane. Stepping off, back onto home soil, you are hit with similar sensations experienced at the beginning of this journey and you feel overwhelmingly nervous. Indeed, you feel anxious because this is no longer what you consider to be your home. The soil feels different and so does the person stepping onto it. You return a different person to the one that first stepped onto the plane – a phrase that will scream cliché to many. But for those who relate to such an experience, there is nothing but truth in this statement.
A lost soul. The unfavourable sense of normality that you must try and adapt yourself (back!?) into. You’ve gone from constant immersion of culture, solving complex situations and dealing with language barriers to suddenly being back in an all too familiar place. A place of mundanity and routine that just doesn’t connect with you anymore. The feeling of place within this space has deserted you.
Sooner rather than later, you return to university. You may have had a year without studying, therefore the expectation of spending your time behind a computer, reading as much as possible, consciously attempting to unconsciously soak up as much knowledge as possible- is not what your mind, body nor soul are used to. Nor is it what the mature you desires. Simply, you have outgrown your surroundings.
The question now is how do you move forward with such lament. Firstly, that plane isn’t returning until you alight! So, you must walk down the steps and embrace your new surroundings. It may become the toughest year that you must cope with, yet coping with it is the solution. Be realistic.
As hard as it may be, enjoy the company around you. Build relationships, go to lectures, eat healthily, start a new sport. Become an ambassador to your beloved home. Don’t hold unrealistic expectations, especially with those relationships you develop abroad. Life is an endless journey, where the mind must adapt. It is not healthy to hold one person to account for the health of your heart. Love changes with time.
Only a short space of time and a flight ticket awaits until you can let the travel bug be free, once again.
Sooner rather than later, you will go through another process of change. Bear in mind that it could begin now. Home is an ambiguous concept; it is not concrete. Much like the soil you step on, home moves and changes shape. It moulds itself around you. You are always the central force in how home is defined. Expect the unexpected and live for the travel.