*Note that I started writing this on May 8th to May 10th*
It’s my third day back in the US, and just like my entire abroad experience, it’s been a total rollercoaster.
I am currently at my college visiting friends, I slept over, it’s 6:48 am the next day as I am writing this, and I have been wide awake for two hours.
I know for three-and-a-half months straight I had to wake up early every day for school, weekend trips, spring break, etc, and now that I’m back home, I am constantly waking up at 5 am or earlier and not being able to fall back asleep.
Italy is 6 hours ahead of the East coast. And traveling backward from Italy to Boston, I went from 6 hours ahead in Italy, back one hour in London, and London is 5 hours of the East coast, and then I went back to the “normal” time zone.
When I started traveling for study abroad in mid-January, I had all sorts of feelings and emotions.
And to be honest, after hearing about terrorist attacks in touristy areas for years and tragic stories of abroad students passing away just a few months before leaving, I did not want to leave my home country.
I never said it to anyone but had I anxiety and stress about these things all the time before going abroad, and I was wondering if I would even make it out alive.
But I did.
I didn’t run into any problems like that while abroad.
It was just all in my head.
And once again before going abroad, I was wishing my time there would fly by–which is not something the average abroad student would wish.
If you’ve been following my blog since it started, you know that I had experienced a bad month of culture shock, and while most of those feelings left, others did not, like homesickness for example.
I was never not homesick. I’d travel with my close friends, and while traveling to different places was great and all on the weekends, it wasn’t the same because I didn’t have my people with me.
And that was one of the many hard things I had to deal with going abroad.
Of course, I love the people that I met and held close to me during my abroad experience, but it wasn’t the same.
I know I came back as a changed person, with more creative ideas spewing out in my mind twenty-four-seven, being open-minded, loving myself a little more/more confident, more independent, the list could go on.
Although I have changed in ways, I am still the girl who is sensitive, and who still has an obsession with makeup, fashion, photography, and art. The girl that can be easily entertained and just laugh at everything, and the girl who still has anxiety and stress. But that’s normal…for me anyways.
It’s difficult to move to another country for three-and-a-half months, but it’s also difficult to move back and attempt the same morning routine you had before leaving, and getting accustomed to everything.
Truth is, that morning routine you had before, won’t be the same now. Mine definitely isn’t.
A friend told me, “It’s hard because you’re sleeping when you’re supposed to be eating meals and vise versa.”
I honestly didn’t think that reverse culture shock would hit me that hard because instead of wanting to live in a country I’ve always dreamed of visiting, I wished I was home. Every day. All one-hundred-and-six days I was abroad.
Within these past five days, I can’t eat American food the same, and I’m never hungry. Before going abroad I wouldn’t say I was never hungry, but I got full very easily and I still do, so I didn’t eat as much as others during the day. While abroad, I walked everywhere, and the food was too good, so I was eating all the time. Now, it feels rare if I get hungry during the day. Most of this has to do with the time difference, and because of the stress from experiencing reverse culture shock. I tried eating a piece of pizza while visiting school friends, and although it was tasted pretty good, it wasn’t the same, and it won’t be the same.
Now it’s a day later (May 9th), and the reverse culture shock is hitting me even more. I’ve read a lot of articles about the topic and they all say you will go through different stages, and I feel like all of those five to ten stages are hitting me all at once.
The exhaustion (oh boy more than anything) and how I could fall asleep at any location anytime, the loss of appetite, having so many ideas and tasks in your head that you think about being confident in completing them, but you never actually act upon them. The stage where you just want to tell close ones your experiences, but you don’t want to say everything and have nothing to say about it for the rest of your life. The stage where you’re feeling stressed, depressed, and have anxiety hitting you all at once. It’s just one of those things where you don’t know how to handle it and sometimes you have to learn to deal with it and wait for the feelings and emotions of reverse culture shock to fade away.
If you were in my position abroad, student or not, I’m not going to sugar coat anything and I will tell you that it’s not fun, and it will suck. Out of all the articles I have read from real people and hearing about it from people I personally know, I’ve never heard one person say that it didn’t hit them as hard, or they didn’t experience it. This is 100% a real thing, and I myself was warned about it before I even got culture shock.
It’s something that will happen, and it’s kind of one of those bumps in the road that may take awhile to get up and over, but once you’re over, you’ll be fine. I’m not saying I’m at the final stage yet, I’m nowhere near halfway, but I know I’ll get there, and so will you.
As for my career, I still consider myself a freelance photographer. I’m the type of person, depending on what it is, can get sick of something quickly, and so I personally don’t and cannot take photographs of one subject for the rest of my life. I love taking pictures of everything.
I attended my photography final last Tuesday, which is weird to think about, and each of us in the class told everyone what kind of photographers we are, and small stories behind each photograph that we chose. My photographs included a little bit of everything, where there were nature and food, and other things that I photographed. Everyone had a little over ten pictures printed on really nice, high-quality photo paper. After explaining my stories behind each photograph, I went on to say why I consider myself as a freelance photographer. Life is so beautiful to me, and I want to capture just about anything.
Something that struck me the most a few years ago was that on some social media app, there was a quote about photography, and it said, “A photographer takes pictures of what they are afraid to lose in their life.”
So now photographers you follow on social media, photographers that you know in real life, and also yourself based on what YOU photograph, you’re thinking of what everyone including yourself is afraid to lose. And your assumption is probably right based on my photographs–I’m afraid to lose a lot from what the world offers us. I never really thought deeply into what people photograph until I came across that quote. It’s so true though if you really think about it.
It’s May 10th, and I’m just slightly better. It’s only been five days. I went to bed just a tad later than I have been, and I still woke up after 5 am, but I was able to go back to sleep and wake up a couple of times, and I consider that as improvement.
All in all, reverse culture shock is real. Keep yourself busy. Seriously, take those naps if you feel like you have to. I’m happy to say I have my boyfriend, my family, and my friends by my side through each step of this process, because going through culture shock was hard enough without them there.