5 phases every student experiences after studying abroad

coloredited_laurenglasby_studyabroad
Lauren Glasby/File

There’s one phrase that almost every college student hears during their time at school: “You need to study abroad. It’s going to change your life!” After hearing tales of students’ travels, many decide to pursue their own trip abroad. Yet, no one really expresses to prospective travelers about what comes after. So if you’re thinking about studying abroad, here are some post-travel phases you may experience after returning home.

Phase 1: Initial excitement stage — “Finally, I’m going home!”

Any returnee from studying abroad can attest to the fact that the experience isn’t beautiful or amazing every single day. The academic rigor and trying to find a balance between classes and making the most out of your experience can be challenging. You’re going to miss home, whether you want to admit it or not, because immersing yourself into a different country will make you realize all the things you take for granted back in America. So when your program finally comes to a close, you may look forward to seeing your family, dog, bed, fresh homemade food or even functional air conditioning a little more than usual.

Phase 2: Snobby stage — “This sandwich is nothing like the one I had in Rome.”

After you land back in the United States and take a few days to recover from jet lag, you’ll most likely start to compare your life at home to your life abroad. Nothing will seem up to par to what you experienced and you might even become a little judgmental, sometimes even of the things you used to really enjoy before going abroad.

Phase 3: Perpetual frustration, or “reverse culture shock” stage — “I know I called my summer in Brazil indescribable, but it really is! Like, what are words?”

Just like how you’ve had to take some time to get used to the country you were studying abroad in, you might have to spend the first couple of days after coming home to readjust. You’ll also have significant difficulties in articulating your experience — “awesome,” “incredible” and “surreal” will become frequent words in your vocabulary whenever someone asks how your time abroad was. “You just have to be there” will turn into your escape phrase from the internal struggle of finding the right words. No matter how hard you try though, no words can really seem to encompass how studying abroad truly felt.

Phase 4: Consistent epiphany stage — “Wow, maybe studying abroad really did change my life.”

You’ll start having numerous epiphanies about yourself and how you view the world around you. You’ll feel a spike in your level of happiness, independence and gratitude for the experience as well as for what you have at home.

Phase 5: Re-adaption stage — “Maybe if I redirect my frustration to do something productive, I can cope with missing Japan.”

Once you’re all settled in and you’ve gotten over the initial wave of emotions and confusion, you’ll be able to think with a clearer and more objective mindset. Your approach towards life will definitely change, and most likely for the better. You’ll have greater motivation to keep working hard to get to where you want to be in life as well as have the means to travel more. Besides, if you had such an amazing time in this one country, imagine what the rest of the world may have in store for you.

Contact Claudia Marie Huynh at [email protected].