Studying abroad was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I will forever cherish the memories I made in Panama. One of the hardest things for me was coming back to the states and re-adjusting back into life that is so different than the life I was living in Bocas del Toro. As soon as I landed back in the United States, it still did not feel like I was actually leaving the place I called home for three months. After a few days, it finally started to set in and I realized that I was going to have to get back into my real life.
Since I had such an amazing time in Panama, I found myself wanting to talk about my experiences all the time. This became something that I quickly realized, and had to make sure that I was not constantly talking about going abroad, but that I was also listening to my family and friends’ stories while I was gone. I found that people are often interested in your stories but they do not need to hear every detail of every day constantly. To help remind myself of my semester abroad I made a photo collage of some of my favorite memories and hung it in my room so that way I could remember my favorite moments without having to talk about them all the time.
I think my reverse culture shock would have been much worse if I had not been busy as soon as I came back to the United States. I had a few days to decompress, but then I started working and volunteering to help take my mind off of thinking about Panama. Keeping busy really helped me find my rhythm and reinstate some of my passions that I was not able to do while abroad. Doing things that I enjoyed as well as fun things that were not available to me while I was abroad reminded me of why I was glad to be back in California.
Studying abroad was quite possibly the best decision I have ever made, and it really helped form my opinions and ideas and allow me to see the world in a more global light. Readjusting to life back in California has been difficult, but it is possible as long as you keep in mind that studying abroad and your home life are most likely very different, so adjusting from one to the other will be hard. Focusing on things that you are passionate about, staying busy, and making little mementos of the time abroad helped me significantly when trying to readjust back into my home life. Even with the possibility of experiencing culture shock, I would strongly recommend anyone considering travelling abroad to do it, as it will likely be life changing.
By: Natalie Mansergh