How to Survive Reverse Culture Shock 101

My name is Amanda Reid, and I am a junior at Towson double majoring in Spanish and International Studies and planning to graduate in the spring of 2018.  I was born and raised in Bel Air, Maryland, so travelling through ISA to Madrid, Spain for nine months was a huge life change for me.  Before I left for my trip abroad, everyone always warned me about the culture shock that I would feel when I landed abroad.  What they don’t tell you is how strange it is to come home and see that while you have changed so much, everything in your hometown is exactly the same as when you left.  Sure, a store may have moved into the local mall and they finally finished the construction on the road where you always commute, but the place that used to be your whole world now seems much smaller in the grand scheme of things.  After living in Madrid for nine months, coming home to Harford County, MD, and readjusting was definitely a struggle.

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Overall, my time abroad was an incredible experience.  I met people from all over the world, created friendships that will last a lifetime, and made more memories than I can count.  Before I left for Spain, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and after being there I now know that I want to study international management and learn as many languages as I can while I’m still in school.  The harsh reality of coming back is that you want to leave again right away and have another great adventure, but you probably drained your bank account while you were abroad.  Below are a few tips on things I have done since returning home to help me cope with the fact that I currently don’t have the funding to travel everywhere I still want to go.

  1. There are things to do in your home state: Specifically in Maryland you have Baltimore, Annapolis, and Washington, DC, not far from where you are. Plan day trips to go hiking in parks, go to ballgames, go out to restaurants, go to concerts, and learn to embrace the culture of your home.  When I came home, I went to a lantern festival, which was one of the coolest things I have ever experienced and it was only an hour drive from my house.  To quote the movie UP, “Adventure is out there,” and sometimes it may even be in your own backyard.
  2. Find a local hangout spot: this is a huge tip for people who have just returned home. Find a local coffee shop, bookstore, park, etc., and get your homework and papers done there instead of staying at home.
  3. Volunteer with the study abroad office: The study abroad office is full of people who also studied abroad. They are either going through or went through the exact same reverse culture shock you are experiencing, and talking about your travels with someone as equally passionate as you helps make the transition easier.
  4. Plan your next adventure: Plan a week-long trip to visit friends you met abroad in another state, plan a weekend trip to the beach, plan your next trip abroad; planning the next adventure helps take the sting off of the fact that your abroad adventure is over for now.
  5. Find restaurants in your area that serve the same food as the country you traveled to: After my first month of satisfying my Chickfila and Qdoba cravings, I began to crave Spanish food.  Baltimore has a restaurant called Tío Pepe where I was finally able to find some gazpacho and paella. It does not taste exactly the same, but it satisfies the craving just the same.
  6. Continue to stay in contact with the people you studied abroad with: I am still in contact with many of the people with whom I have traveled the world, and we are now organizing trips to visit each other.  Even if you can’t visit each other, they are also learning to readjust to their lives at home just as much as you are and are great people with whom to talk.
  7. Embrace the fact that study abroad changed your perspectives. I experienced so many breakdowns of stereotypes I had based on what I saw in the news, and now that I’m back, I frequently debate with my family and classmates over different topics due to my changed perspective.

Perhaps the most difficult question anyone has asked me since I’ve been back is “How was study abroad?!” the way they would ask how a week-long vacation was.  I was gone for almost an entire year and there is no way I can answer that question with just a one word response, or even a sentence for that matter.  Madrid is my home almost as much as Harford County is.  Although the readjustment to life in Maryland has been difficult, it has helped me come to appreciate the things that exist within an hour drive from me while also giving me time to analyze my time abroad and start organizing the next steps in my life as well as my next adventure.

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