So you’ve come back from studying abroad, and you can’t stop talking about it to anyone who is willing to listen. We get it! Your time abroad was an amazing and once-in-a-lifetime experience. But somehow, while sharing all of your favorite memories and the destinations that you traveled to, you’ve become this person:
To help you continue learning from your experiences, here are some tips to help you stay self-aware after your return to the U.S.
1. Know – and listen to – your audience
Even though it may feel natural to want to share as much of your study abroad experience as possible with your friends and family, make sure to be conscious of their experiences and feelings too. Some of your family members may have never left the country and some of your friends may not have had the time or resources to study abroad while in college. From their point of view, listening to your memories from study abroad may be exciting, but it could also feel alienating for them. Also, too many one-sided conversations may leave your loved ones feeling frustrated and silenced. If you’re nervous to start these conversations, a good rule of thumb is to wait until others ask you about study abroad first. That way you know that they are genuinely curious and want to hear about your time abroad. Regardless of how many stories you have to share, also remember to give your friends and family time to tell you what they’ve been up to. Chances are a lot happened while you were away, and they probably want to share what’s new in their lives too. Giving others space to let their voice be heard will ease any tensions and make them more open to (constantly) hearing about your time abroad.
2. Show don’t tell.
Rather than trying to explain your time abroad to your friends and family, try showing them instead. Before you leave your host country, buy souvenirs or post cards for your loved ones. And when you do get home, try sharing your memories in an engaging way. Consider setting up a slideshow of photos to share one night with your family or cook them your favorite meal from study abroad! Sharing aspects of your time abroad in this way will help others feel like they are participating in your experiences, rather than just hearing about them. Also, cooking for your family might give you an opportunity to share the food culture that you were immersed in while establishing some new family traditions.
Homemade ravioli and ricotta that I made for my family after I came home from my fall semester at Temple Rome. I learned how to make fresh pasta during a cooking class and the ricotta I picked up during an Italian cultural lab, both of which were events hosted by the university. My family loved the meal so much that now I make fresh pasta every year during the holidays.
3. Remember to appreciate the things you love about your hometown or home country.
After coming home from study abroad, resist the urge to compare everything back home to what you experienced abroad. Whether it’s the way Americans drink their coffee or how we dress, life in the U.S. is inherently different than life abroad. But, rather than focusing on the things you like better about life abroad, try to remember the little things you love about being home. For instance, I know that no country does brunch better than the U.S. does. Finding aspects of home that you missed while abroad will also help you mesh your culture with the new culture you learned and give you a deeper understanding of yourself and your place in the world. That being said…
Sunday brunch from my favorite diner in my hometown. I know you missed it as much as I did. Also, I didn’t realize it until I came back from Rome, but they sell espresso in addition to American coffee! Truly the best of both worlds.
4. Remind yourself that you still have a lot to learn.
As many study abroad students have experienced, a summer, semester, or academic year is never enough time to truly get to know your host country. No matter how long you were abroad, cultures are vastly complex, and it would be impossible to become an expert on your host culture in such a short period of time. So, while you’re sharing new memories from study abroad, remember to frame the knowledge that you gained as your experiences and try to continue to learn about your host country after you’ve returned. Whether that means continuing to study the language you learned or watching the local news from your study abroad city, try to keep expanding on the lessons and knowledge you learned abroad.
The Spanish Steps in late August.
5. Connect with your study abroad friends or study abroad community.
One of the best ways to continue learning and sharing is to connect with your study abroad community at home! Although you may want to immediately connect with the friends you missed while abroad, remember to stay in touch with the friends you made during your program. Reminiscing on your time abroad with the friends you made along the way is a great way to relive your study abroad experiences and an opportunity to make new memories after you’ve returned. Also, stay connected with your study abroad community at your home university or college. Get involved and share your stories so that you can support other students who are considering going abroad. To find out how to connect with Temple’s study abroad community, visit our page for returned students and learn how to become a Study Abroad Ambassador or volunteer.
My friends, Isa and Dylan, who I met at Temple Rome. Isa goes to school at Puget Sound University and Dylan goes to Temple. We’ve stayed in touch, and Dylan and I went to visit Isa in Washington this past spring break. During our trip, we explored Mount Rainier (above) and were extremely unprepared for the amount of snow we encountered!
6. Start planning your next trip!
Every one of your friends and family members has heard it at least once – you want to go back to your host country as soon as possible. So, stop talking about it and actually do it! Book your next trip or study abroad semester and continue experiencing as much of the world as possible.
It’s not Rome, or Paris for that matter, but a few months after I came back from studying abroad I planned a trip to Las Vegas. Living in Rome made me realize that there’s so much of the U.S. I have yet to see, so I’ve made it a priority to see more of the place I call home.
Coming home from studying abroad can be a tough adjustment. But hopefully with the right tools and support, you’ll have a smooth transition and continue to reflect on what you learned abroad.