I have not yet returned home, but I am worried about reverse culture shock when I do. Everyone I spoke to told me about the initial culture shock I would feel when I arrived in Italy, but a lot of people don’t talk about the reverse culture shock. It’s more than going home and being bored – it’s a completely different lifestyle altogether. While there are minor differences that I honestly miss, such as getting separate checks at the restaurant or being able to take your leftovers home, I do worry about adapting to everything. It took me a while to get used to life in Italy, but now that I am, I worry it will take me just as long to get back to the American lifestyle.
I am taking classes over the summer, so I think that will help to keep me in a routine and make the transition a bit easier. A huge thing my friends who have returned home are experiencing is extreme boredom. They were excited at first to see their friends and family, but now that the excitement has worn off, they are simply bored with nothing to do. When you’re abroad there’s a lot of pressure to always be doing something, which makes for a really fun and action-packed few months. However, now that I will be returning home to more responsibilities and less money, I can’t live the same lifestyle. A lot of study abroad students won’t admit it, but we have been so spoiled these last few months and are a bit cranky now that it’s being taken away.
Another thing I am anticipating is that things have changed since I left. This is more than the addition of an Insomnia Cookies on campus, but rather the fact that my friends’ lives have continued while I was away. They got boyfriends and girlfriends I haven’t met, moved apartments, and just continued life altogether. I had this perfect idea of all of us reuniting as if nothing has changed, but that just isn’t how life works. I’m finding out one by one that my friends are accepting internships in other states for the summer, or studying abroad, and realizing that I’m going to have to wait another four months to see some of my really close friends. My roommate and I, for example, will have not seen each other for eight months by the time we are reunited in August. She has been studying abroad in China, so we have had little communication due to the time difference. This is the case with a lot of people from home, which makes it hard for everyone to stay updated in each other’s lives.
I believe the biggest struggle of reverse culture shock is not anticipating it, so at least I’m one step ahead. Life is just going to be different, and it’s hard to accept the fact that perhaps the best few months of my life are over and I must move on. However, there are new opportunities and experiences waiting for me when I return and I’m ready to welcome them with open arms.