What it Really Feels like to Come Home after Studying Abroad

I’ve been home for about two and a half weeks now. The never-ending, “Tell me about Scotland,” “What was your favorite place?” and “Do you miss it?” have finally ended. But that also means the whirlwind of settling in and being back home is gone. I’m finally all settled and back at work and in my normal summer routine again just like every other person I know who studied abroad last semester. There’s just one difference, I don’t miss it like they do.

In the past few days, I’ve seen so many people post photos or snaps with captions saying things like, “Missing this place.” And that’s just not me. Like I have hundreds of photos I could still post on my Instagram from Europe, but I don’t want to because I don’t have any good captions for them, and I don’t want to lie and say that I miss it. Because I don’t.

I think I’m the only person I’ve known who has ever study abroad and not missed it. But I think my experience was a lot different than a lot of people’s. Either that or everyone is lying about how much they loved to study abroad (post on this coming soon). Maybe I’m the only weirdo who had a hard time adjusting to being back in my homeland, or maybe everyone else is romanticizing the experience too much. I don’t want to say too much about it now, but it had to be said to preface this post.

What it Really Feels like to Come Home After Studying Abroad | College with Caitlyn

Basically, I want to share the hard parts about coming home after studying abroad. Because life doesn’t just go back to the way it was when you left five months ago. At least, that’s not what happened for me.

Maybe I had unusually harder than other people, but that means I can help other people who find the adjustment back hard, too. And help open people’s eyes about how to treat students who just got home from studying abroad if they’ve never experienced it themselves.

Normal No Longer Exists

While I was abroad I compared everything to the states. It was the only normal I knew. Driving on the left was wrong. Driving on the right was normal. Then I came home and accidentally drove done a small street on the left.

Almost everything that was different to me there, became my new normal, so coming home felt wrong. It felt weird. Like I was driving home from work on evening, a road I drove every week before I left for Europe, and it felt wrong. Being up high on the freeway and seeing hills of trees all around and huge trucks and the sun beating down so hard. It used to be normal, nothing I would even bother to think about, but suddenly everything I once was so accustomed to was making me feel like an outsider in my own country.

Life Went on Without You

The weirdest thing about being home was going out into town alone for the first time. The day after I got back from Scotland, I went out shopping and all I could think about was how no one around me knew that 24 hours ago I was on a different continent.

I felt like this totally new person with all new perspectives and views on life, but everyone here hasn’t changed. They still think the same things they did five months ago and their viewpoints on anything haven’t budged one bit. That really screwed me up.

sitting on Spanish mountains alone

After having seen the world through so many different people’s eyes while in Europe, coming home to people who have only ever known Kentucky was frustrating. There’s just so much out there, and by no means have I seen it all, but we Americans are all so self-obsessed and believe that America does everything right. Even if all we do is hate on how everything is run around here. I just wish more people could understand that they are different ways to do things and different ways to live and that’s totally okay and the only thing others have ever known.

Then, there’s also all the stuff your friends and family did and never got the chance to tell you about. Like how your sister went through three different crushes, your grandpa got a new job, your baby cousin grew four inches, one of your OG college friends got a boyfriend, your best friend isn’t going to Greece anymore, and your family got rid of the new puppy.

I just felt so out of the loop for two weeks after getting home. Honestly, I’m still finding out things I didn’t know what happened while I was gone. I thought I would be used to it since I never came home during the school year anyway, but being in a whole different continent where you can’t even just call your Grandma for the weekly family gossip can set you back on the happenings of all your peers.

People Will Ask Questions, but the Answers won’t Matter

Like I mentioned, everyone will ask one of the following generic questions:

  • What was it like there?
  • What was your favorite part?
  • Do you miss it?
  • What do you miss most?

Then after you give a two sentence answer, they just smile and nod. Or you go on and on about something and they zone out and say, “That sounds amazing.”

I think this has a lot to do with what I said before about coming home to people who have never known anywhere else. They want to go to all of these places, but they won’t understand how amazing they are until they actually go there, so just listening to you talk doesn’t do anything for them.

sitting in windowsill looking off into distance

I’ll be honest, I zone out when people talk about places I’ve never been. It’s only when someone brings up a specific city or place I’ve been that I become super engrossed in the conversation. But it still feels crappy to have all these things to say about your life the last five months, and people only want to hear you say like 500 words max.

Which is one of the reasons I utilize my blog to talk about my time abroad!! You guys all love the content and I get to share my story with people who actually want to hear about it and don’t just ask questions to ask them.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being back in the States. And I don’t regret going abroad.

Adjusting back to American and my family’s culture has just been hard after being away and alone for so long. I felt a little lost in my own homeland for a few days, maybe even a week, but things are starting to feel alright again. I wouldn’t say normal, remember normal is gone now, but things are good. And I guess that’s the ultimate goal of adjusting to anywhere.

In the end, going home after being abroad can be a bit isolating. Everything that once felt like home feels foreign, but in a couple weeks, things won’t feel so wrong anymore. I promise.

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