As my time abroad in Canterbury, England came to a close, I made my way back to my hometown of Washington, DC, and eventually to my college in Southern California. During this time I found myself worrying about how I was going to make my experience abroad matter for the rest of my life. I didn’t just want to bring a few souvenirs home in my suitcase; I wanted to preserve my time in England and make sure to remember all that I had learned. Here are some tips that I’ve picked up on how to maintain the mindset that you obtained abroad when you get back to your home country.
Explore your area and take advantage of your surroundings
While in Canterbury, I made a point of getting to know the area in which I was living as much as I could. I knew that I was only there for a short period of time, and that it was a unique opportunity to be living in another part of the world. Therefore, I tried out new restaurants, stores, and pubs in my area. I went on runs on different streets, and took a lot of walks into the city. I discovered my favorite coffee shops and stores in Canterbury, and frequented them often. By the time I was leaving, I really felt like I was moving away from a place where I had been living, and that I knew very well. Back in the United States, I have made it a point to walk more, and to go into my college town often and immerse myself in whatever is going on. So far I’ve spent a good amount of time trying out new places in town with my friends! I have also made trips to local attractions that I may have overlooked before going to England. For example, when I was abroad, I went to see Covent Garden in London, and so when I got home to Washington, DC, I decided to revisit some of my favorite museums like the Air and Space museum!
In England, I learned to say, “yes” as often as I could. I did not have the normal day-to-day activities that I usually had to fall back on in the U.S., and I didn’t have any of my friends with me from home. I had to take opportunities that came my way. This helped me to make friends, learn new things, and have amazing memories to look back on. This can carry over to life at home as well! When I was abroad I said “yes” to making dinner with anyone who asked. It became a tradition that my housemates and I would all cook together once a week and some of my best memories consisted of going to my friends’ flats to make dinner together. Even though I am not a great cook, I said, “yes” to trying to make many different things, and it turned out the memories were amazing and so was the food! Similarly, even though I hadn’t played tennis in years I said, “yes” to playing with some of my friends once a week, and it was such a fun time! At home, I’ve found it can be nice to say “yes” to getting a coffee with that classmate, or going on a day trip to the beach! You never know when you’re going to meet a lifelong friend or make a lasting memory.
Abroad, I felt so much curiosity to travel. Whether a weekend trip, a weeklong trip, or a day trip, every traveling experience that I had was influential. One time I went with some friends to the cliffs of Dover, and got to see such beautiful views! It felt like such a unique experience, and I was glad to share it with my international friends. I also went to Prague and Stockholm with one of my friends from my home college. These were both cities that I had never been to before. It was so insightful to see places that were so different from where I grew up, and my friend and I will look back on this trip for years. At home, I hope to continue doing this as much as possible. This could mean travelling to a neighboring town in California or just a spending the night away in a place that I’ve never been before. I really want to explore more of California in the near future. The new adventures do not have to end just because study abroad does.
Don’t be afraid to be alone
While I was abroad, I went on a trip to Florence, Italy by myself. While I was scared at first, I wanted to see Florence, especially the museums. I took an overnight train from Paris to Florence, which is something I’ve never done before. I was worried about getting around in a country where I didn’t speak the language, and also worried that I would get very lonely. I actually ended up getting sick while I was there which was really hard. But, I got to see the beautiful city and Michelangelo’sDavid! I realized that I was able to accomplish my goals on my own and this was so empowering. I think this experience alone helped me grow immensely. When I did this I learned to push myself out of my comfort zone, and ended up getting to do things I otherwise would not have gotten to do! It made me so much more confident to know that I can see and do things that I want to do, without help from others. Back in the US, I plan to keep this in mind when going after things that I want, like checking out a farmers market in LA or joining a random club on campus. Whether I do them with other people or by myself, I will not hold myself back.
Continue to do what you learned to love
For me, this was journaling. While abroad, I made a point to write down my experiences as often as I could. It helped me to cope with the ups and downs of my time there, and gave me an amazing resource to look back on. Now I am continuing to do that at my home college. It was tough to come back to the US and be surrounded by people who had not had the experience that I had in England. Continuing to journal helped me sort out my thoughts about transitioning back to life in the USA and to record the new memories that I was making back home! Other ideas for this could be maintaining your love for a newfound language or a sport. You could even become a global ambassador for IFSA-Butler or volunteer in your study abroad office and spread the word about what it was like to be abroad!