HomeAdmissionsCampus LifeAquinas.edu

Reverse Culture Shock

It seems like as soon as you mention anything about travelling outside of the country, someone always has some piece of advice to share.  Roll your clothes in your check bag, weigh your check bag beforehand, don’t talk to anyone at the airport, only get in the red cabs, never walk outside after sunset, try the food, eat the food, love the food, food, food, food!!  By the time you arrive to your destination, you are well-prepared and the transition is relatively smooth.  But what happens when it’s time to come home?  You’ve acclimated yourself to a new way of life including adhering to new rules, being exposed to a new climate, eating new food, and often speaking a new language.  Whereas before advice was abundant and at times overwhelming, now it is almost impossible to find.  It’s impossible to imagine what it will be like stepping back into the void you created when you left, but it’s inevitable.  All of the study abroad students and those who have gone abroad for an extended period of time have experienced this anxiety.  Having studied abroad in Costa Rica myself, I personally found out that although starting a new life in Costa Rica was challenging, returning home to the United States was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my entire life.

One aspect of travelling that I learned a long time ago is that nobody can possibly be as excited about your journey as you are.  Of course I tested this theory several times once I returned and it was supported with every “I’m pretending to care and look interested” response that I received.  But how can we expect one of our friends or family members to fully wrap their minds around what we went through when we can’t put our experiences into words anyways?  Sure, I can say, “My favorite part of the trip was standing under a star-soaked sky atop a mountain where an indigenous group lived and oh yeah, we got there by riding mustangs for a couple of hours and my horse took off in the woods and before I knew it an indigenous boy grabbed the reigns and led me the rest of the way and earlier we played soccer with an old basketball and laughed and cried and then took part in a celebration where the leader of the tribe gave us all an alcoholic beverage made from corn that had been “fermented” from a few members of the tribe chewing and chewing and chewing this corn until the end result was their saliva and that was the beverage and now here we are smack dab under a wall of the milky way without a single light to drown out the brightness of the gazillion stars that was my favorite part…” But now I look like a lunatic who needs to lay off the coffee.  So as a group we decided that we weren’t even going to try to explain anything we did unless asked to do so.

This was one of the easier lessons we learned.  We also faced our old friend groups who had four months’ worth of inside jokes and it seemed that now we were on the outside.  Being at home with my family felt eerie because it was almost as though I never even left.  Mom and dad still had the same routines, my dog looked the same except for a few more gray hairs in his muzzle but other than that, my other life was nearly untouched.  It was the strongest sensation of déjà vu I had experienced.  The aspect of the Northern American life that took me the longest to adjust to was the pace.  Everything was rushed and it was unacceptable to not be doing anything.  Whether being asked to hang out or headed to work or even working out, it seemed like there wasn’t enough time in the day.  To add to that our group had to relearn how to socialize in English which was quite the obstacle to overcome.  All of these areas were barriers that we never expected to encounter and although we didn’t have any warning, I’m glad we were able to adjust to everything that was thrown our way.  It has made us stronger and wiser, now being able to pass along what we have learned to those who are currently abroad or will be in the future.  Sometimes I have to be reminded that everything I did in Costa Rica wasn’t just a dream.  I actually went there and yes I actually came back and it will be an experience that will forever take up a large part of my heart.

Leave a Reply

Saint Scoop is the property of Aquinas College, © 2018