Before you leave to study abroad you attend many orientations and sessions on what your new city and country will be like, prepare you for classes/internship, and facing challenges like “culture shock,” language barriers, and transportation challenges. What they do not prepare you for is the challenge of returning home, or of the possibility of culture shock in your own country.
They warn you of homesickness for your home in the U.S. but they don’t warn you that you might get so attached to your new home and country and the homesickness you might face after leaving your time abroad. Something I have learned about myself is that not only do I get bored with locations, wishing to be challenged by a new environment, but I also am able to find my home almost anywhere.
First, I grew up in Florida, lived there my whole life but always wanted to leave, not wishing to return. Then, I moved to Alabama for university and again found my home in Birmingham, where I first knew not a single person but now have built a community, almost four years later. Now, having studied abroad in London, after just a couple months I feel like I have created a home in London. This has made me realize that I can find home, comfort, and community almost anywhere. This takes away a little anxiety and nervousness about my next step of life—moving again to a new city, new state for law school.
As I approach the end of my program not only do I balance exams, my last few travel weekends, and last few weeks with my internship I begin to reflect on my study abroad experience. Many students are ready to return home, and I do miss my family and the small things about the states like gum, American popcorn, Chik Fil A, etc, and yet there are so many things I will miss here and I truly don’t know if I will ever have the opportunity to return to my favorite city in the world.
When I think about returning to the states I am already anticipating the culture shock that will inevitably occur when I return. I am anticipating the shock from the lack of not just British accents but constant various multicultural accents. I can’t imagine returning to my near homogenous home community, devoid of cultural influence and international representation.
I am also anticipating the shock of my return to the South particularly. The South is an interesting place yet lacks the extremely variant deep cultured and historical environment that London has. London is full of international cultures, foods, people and is a constant stimulus of activity and new thought. London has challenged me to think in new ways and question my previous ways of thinking and I enjoy being in an environment that does that for me. I have already adapted many of my previous views of the world, including some political standpoints after experiencing some things here in London and in various European countries.
I also have just enjoyed living in a big city, with the best public transportation system in the world, and dominated by pedestrian travel. Europe as a whole has cities that are built around pedestrian travel, and I am already anticipating how strange it will be to drive a car for the first time in months to every destination, even just the grocery store for an errand. Living in London has opened Europe’s doors to me, making it accessible, including its vast and rich history, unlike America where it is so hard to travel outside the country and whose history is so brief and limited. London has become another home to me, familiar, comfortable, and I cant imagine having to leave it.