There & Back Again: Adjusting to Home after a Semester Abroad - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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Study Abroad
January 11, 2016

There & Back Again: Adjusting to Home after a Semester Abroad

As my semester abroad in Rome, Italy, came to a close, the reality of going home became—well, real.

Toward the end of our semester, we were told that the adjustment to American life after studying overseas is a difficult and often overlooked part of travelling. We were advised to seek out support systems back home, to make sense of our unique experiences through journals or photo albums, and to take our newfound knowledge of foreign culture and use it in our daily lives in America.

What I found when I returned home, however, was not crippling nostalgia or insomnia or even noticeable jet lag. I did not feel suddenly out of place in my American life or at odds with the responsibilities that were waiting for me there. The day after I went home, I had a job interview and went to Starbucks—I hardly missed a beat jumping right back into my neat and tidy life.

Basically, it wasn’t a change in place that I found challenging after studying abroad; it was a change in heart.

In the months after returning home, I noticed in myself a new and constant need to be consumed and immersed in life. Studying abroad had redefined my idea of living purposefully; of engaging with people; and especially of serving God. My worldview was utterly dismantled and beautifully reassembled through 3 months of seeing, learning, travelling, and doing. When I went home, home was the same, but I was different. Italian chatter didn’t follow me back to Pennsylvania, but Rome did. And a newfound humility did; a thirst for intimately knowing the world did.

Simply put, I found that the lens through which I viewed God’s creation had completely changed after studying abroad. And it was confusing. Everything around me was magnified: diversity, beauty, suffering…and the difference was, this time I could not turn away. I felt like before my travels, I was living half asleep—living a less than vibrant life; and reconciling that on my own was hard. 

And so, after studying abroad, I learned to pray—and I mean really pray. I offered up the “what ifs” and “if onlys” up to God, and surrendered to Him entirely. I learned to live passionately in a place where I was comfortable and sometimes bored, even without the weekend travels across Europe.

For those of you not yet back across the pond: remember that your journey doesn’t end when you touch down on U.S. soil. There isn’t a time limit on how long it should take you to adjust back to being home, and there isn’t a textbook method on how to go back to “feeling normal.” My advice is to pray. Pray that God continues to use you as magnificently as he used your travels to open up your eyes to the world. And trust me, He will.

Happy travelling. 

-Leah Daigle '16

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