With about one month left for most universities, the semester is slowly coming to a close and study abroad students are starting to make their way back home for the summer. Returning to the U.S. was a huge adjustment for me after my time living abroad. I had to deal with reverse culture shock, similar to the culture shock I first experienced when I moved to Italy. I never really sat down and reflected on my time abroad until recently, and I’ve come to realize that most people don’t really reflect until they are back home. Here are some realities that every study abroad student experiences when they return home that are just too real:
1. You make a list that’s about 2-feet long with all your favorite foods that you just can’t wait to eat
“So what do you wanna eat when you get home?” My mom would ask as my time abroad was winding down. Being from Hawaii, I needed all of my favorite local eats. Let’s start with Portuguese sausage omelette, eggs and bacon, loco moco, kalbi, Mom’s 7-bone roast, and lots of cheeseburgers! Surprisingly, I never got sick of pasta and pizza, but I sure did miss protein and french fries.
2. People start to get annoyed with your countless stories
Every story starts with “I remember when I was in Italy…” And although it will never get old for you, it gets old for them. But who can really blame you for having such an awesome time abroad?
3. You become super interested in every culture around you
I knew that America was always a “melting pot,” I mean, I’m from Hawaii which is one of the most racially diverse states. But it never really interested me until I lived in Italy. Now, whenever I bump into someone who is from a different place, I immediately feel the need to ask them about their home.
4. You get overly excited when you meet someone who is from the same place that you studied
I remember the first time recognizing someone’s Italian accent while I was walking my dog. Me: “Oh my God, are you Italian? Are you from there? I lived there while I was in college!” Even if they don’t always share your enthusiasm, it’s a great conversation starter.
5. The travel bug bites again
After living in Italy, I have the idea that I can travel everywhere and that I should! So I literally spend my days planning future trips and daydreaming about my next destination. I even made it a goal to own a villa in Tuscany one day.
6. Slips of the tongue
During the first few weeks that I was back home, I kept catching myself saying Italian phrases, especially “Grazie,” and “Ciao.” I’m sure people thought I was being pretentious, but I was honestly so used to speaking Italian that it took me a while to get back to speaking English full time. I still make grammatical errors in my speech because of the different verb uses in Italian versus English.
7. A different kind of homesick
It didn’t take long before I started to miss everything about my life in Siena. Whether it was the long walks through the city’s countryside, waiting for a bus that was guaranteed to be late, or just the company of having dinners with my host-parents and roommate each night, I missed my Italian lifestyle.
8. The pace of life
This brings me to the go-getter attitude that most Americans carry. I’m not suggesting that Italians are lazy, but they had a way of life that made you stop and appreciate your surroundings. Going from that back to my goal-oriented self was a struggle, especially since I was about to start my senior year of college and had the pressure of finding a post-grad job breathing down my neck.