Adapting to being back home after study abroad can be challenging.
When you were abroad, you immersed yourself in a new culture, and you quickly learned to adapt to a different way of life. You met new people, formed new relationships, and had many new exciting experiences, all of which challenged you—and changed you, although you may not have fully noticed it at the time. And when you were away, people and things at home most likely changed some, too.
While you may be expecting everything and everyone back home to be the same as before—and they may be expecting the same old you—neither is generally the case.
You may find that you will need to adapt and integrate new things—ideas, perspectives, habits, likes/dislikes, expectations—into your life. This readjustment period takes time, awareness, and patience with yourself and others.
Give yourself time.
Your transition back to an American lifestyle may seem all too abrupt, and you are immediately thrown into the vortex of stress that might have been one of your motivations to leave Cornell in the first place.
Realize that you may not feel completely at home in your environment for a while, but that in time you will begin to feel at home again. Remember, too, that you have experienced transitions before—not necessarily reentry, but other unsettling periods in your life when you had to make adjustments and changes in your lifestyle and your self-perception—and you managed.
Remember: This was your journey, not theirs.
Your family and friends may lose interest in hearing about all of your adventures and observations abroad. Remember that they are not rejecting you or your achievements. You just need to be realistic in your expectations of how fascinating your journey is going to be for anyone, and remember that they may not be able to relate to your experiences.
Rediscover your favorite things about Ithaca and Cornell.
Reconnect with the things that made you fall in love with this beautiful university in the first place. Take a walk along the gorges, watch the sun set over Libe Slope, or just spend hours in the lunch room catching up with good friends.
Keep in touch with friends made abroad. Make new friends who have had similar experiences.
Many of you will have gone through many emotional highs and lows while abroad. This has brought you closer to the friends you made abroad. Keep in touch with those you met while abroad. They too will be going through similar frustrations, and by doing so, you’ll have gained a friend for a lifetime.
Back home, find a confidant. With friends and family, it may be difficult to coherently relay all the sights, feelings, and experiences you had while abroad, in particular to those who don’t have similar frames of reference or travel backgrounds. By finding someone who may have recently had similar experiences, you share a common language about your experience and how this affected you.
Get involved in activities that you discovered during your time abroad.
Challenge yourself academically and socially, and gradually strike a balance between your life at Cornell and your international interests. Global Cornell has a comprehensive list of the many international opportunities that exist for Cornell students. The goal is to continue the learning. There are thousands of cultures/sub-cultures in the world and the US to learn from.
Keep your study abroad experience alive.
Being home, coupled with the pressures of job, family, and friends, often combine to make returnees worried that somehow they will “lose” the experience. Many fear that it will somehow become compartmentalized like souvenirs or photo albums kept in a box and only occasionally taken out and looked at.
Your time abroad has taught you just how complex the world can be. You have learned how cultures approach even the simplest aspects of daily life—from what they eat for breakfast to how they greet others—as you came to know these cultures, you came to love some of these new habits. Don’t leave this behind when you return. Bring them back with you—drink tea with milk, have a hearty breakfast of upma, go on a treasure hunt for the perfect croissant. Bringing back some of your favorite idiosyncrasies from your newly adopted culture will help keep your experience alive.