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Adjusting to Life After Studying Abroad

by Taylor Ollari
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After studying abroad in Salzburg, Austria for two semesters, I knew that coming back from my experience and readjusting to life back home would not be seamless. Honestly, I thought it would only take about a month and then I would be fine. But it has not been that easy, and now five months after being back from Salzburg, life in America is something I still struggle with. While I have gotten over the initial reverse culture shock of being back in America, I still experience homesickness for Salzburg and my time abroad.

For future study abroad students, especially those studying abroad for longer periods, here are some things I have found that help with that homesickness:

1. Keep in touch with your friends from studying abroad.

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Salzburg Reunion in Boston!

The friendships that you make while abroad are so unique, and I share such a strong bond with the friends I made while in Salzburg. One of the things that has helped the most is staying in communication with my abroad friends. While my friends from home and school have been wonderful in letting me share my experiences with them, friends from abroad are always available to reminisce with, even six months after being home. Your friends from abroad will understand your feelings more than anyone else and are great when talking about anything from a certain pastry you miss to dealing with intense reverse-culture shock.

2. Maintain ties with the country you studied in.

This can be interpreted and practiced in a lot of different ways. If you made any foreign friends while abroad or stayed in a homestay, it can be extremely helpful in dealing with homesickness to maintain these bonds! Some other ways you can do this are watching or reading the news from your study abroad country, cooking recipes that you may have picked up abroad, and practicing the language they speak in your host country. While looking at pictures is a great way to reminisce, there are a lot of even better ways to stay connected to your experience. Earlier this summer I tried on my Dirndl (traditional Austrian dress) for some family members, and not only was it a great way to revisit the memories from my time abroad, but it helped me stay connected to Austria itself.

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3. Journal and keep lists.

While I was abroad I kept a journal and am now so happy I did. On some days when I really am homesick for Salzburg, I read a few passages from my journal to remember my experiences abroad. Doing this really helps me think about my time abroad in a retrospective way. When I was abroad I also kept a list of things that I missed about home, and now I make it a point to appreciate those things about America.

4. Appreciate the past, live in the present, and plan for the future.

As much as this advice is corny, it has really helped me put things into perspective. I am so grateful and appreciative for my time spent abroad, and the things I learned abroad about myself are so beneficial to my daily life in America. Being back at school, I try to appreciate the things I could not do abroad, like long car rides blasting music with my friends or celebrating Halloween. Now I am planning for the future in the hopes to go abroad again, and my time studying abroad in Salzburg is motivating me to work towards my future goals.

This post was written by Taylor Ollari, an AIFS alum who studied abroad for a full academic year in Salzburg, Austria.

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