Preparing for the trip back home

Suitcase overflowing with luggage

As all your courses begin talking about final assessments, you’ll begin preparing for how you’re going to spend the last weeks of your study abroad. It may be filled with travel and goodbyes, but are you preparing for the most important thing of all? Are you really prepared to go back home?

There’s a little secret of studying or living abroad and that is that it’s going to be just as weird going home as it was coming here. Reverse culture shock is definitely a real thing and for those of you that will be returning home to colder areas (like how I’ll be returning to snowy mountains) or countries that don’t speak English, it will be a lot more apparent. When my sister returned home from studying in France she had a hard time getting use to just being able to understand everyone out in grocery stores or bars after spending months phasing out all that background noise in a language she wasn’t fluent in.

Whether you have been here in the land of Oz for a semester or longer, returning home probably won’t be all smiles and rainbows like it was for Dorothy. You spent all this time getting adapted to the accents, the weather, the ways things are done, and a list that could probably be a post all in itself. You’ll have to do the same thing when you go back home. Don’t fear though because if you are prepared for it then it’ll go a lot smoother than just hopping off the plane and hoping for the best.

So, after you made sure that you have crossed everything off your Australian bucket list (at least all the things that you deemed achievable after actually being here) and bought all the gifts for your friends and family back home, here are some things to think about for preparing for your trip back home.

  • Be prepared for a change of weather. Most of the exchange students I have met will be returning to the northern hemisphere and that means leaving a beautiful sun soaked country for cold, snowy (or maybe just rainy) homes. You’ll have to kiss your suntan goodbye and make sure whoever picks you up from the airport brings you a winter coat. You probably missed out on it gradually getting colder and that means you should expect to think the cold is even colder than usual. Such a big change in temperature and the amount of sunlight you’re getting everyday can do some pretty wicked things to you mentally, so be on the look out for signs that you are being negatively affected by the change.
  • Get ready to have to not be living the relaxed Aussie lifestyle. This will mean tons of different things for everyone. The rest of the world hasn’t quite caught on to slowing down and enjoying life as much as the Australians have. For me, I’ll have to remember that I’m expected to always be in lectures and on time for them (there is no such thing as scheduling clashes in the states). It may also no longer be socially acceptable to go out on any day that ends with a Y. There will be a lot of changes to how you are expected to act once you return home and they might be total bummer, like how I’m probably going have to wear shoes more often.
  • Understand that everyone at home didn’t stop living because you weren’t there. This is a big one. As much as you would like to believe that everyone stopped having fun without you, it won’t be the case and you have to expect that. The world kept on turnin’ even with you on the other side of it. You might not understand all the inside jokes, there will be stories that you have to be filled in on, things at your job may have changed… but it’s not anything you can’t handle. You will have all kinds of time to get caught up and fit right back into your life at home. Just expect to be a little lost at first.
  • Everyone is going to want to know about your time here and probably judge it. Yeah, you probably missed out from stories at home, but think of how many you’ll have to tell when you go home! Everyone, that includes the random people from high school, will want to hear all about your time abroad. Remember all those weird stereotypes you had about Australia before you came here? Well, they are about to make an appearance in your life in the form of, “Oh my goodness, were there crocodiles/kangaroos/koalas everywhere,” “Did you have some shrimp on the barbie,” and “Say something like an Australian!” People are also going to probably tell you what you should’ve done with your time here and question why you took the time to make sure you still had access to Netflix. Be ready to just nod and smile a lot.
  • You are going to miss being in Australia for one reason or another. Whether it is the weather, the attitude, or the people, you are going to miss being here for one reason or another. It may have been the best experience of your life or maybe you are looking forward to going home, but I bet the words “I wish I was back in Australia” will creep out sooner or later. Remember how lucky you are to have had this experience and make sure you are signed up for frequent flyer miles so you can start planning your trip back!

With all that being said, make sure you get out and make the best of the rest of your time here! Studying abroad or doing an exchange is truly an amazing experience that will change you in some way for the rest of your life. Enjoy and explore it while it’s still your backyard!

– Jennifer



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