Combating Reverse Culture Shock

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

Why You Should Choose SFS​

When I was looking to study abroad, I had three main conditions that I wanted from my experience. First, I wanted to have an academically challenging environment that would allow me to think outside the box. Second, it was important to have a sense of community involvement and third, I wanted something completely different that I would remember for the rest of my life. SFS was the organization that met all of these conditions, and it has been a once in a lifetime experience. SFS was the organization that met all of these conditions, and it has been a once in a lifetime experience. SFS is one of the most unique study abroad programs offered, and the blend of cultural experiences and academic field work is a perfect balance.

In Panama, I can spend the morning at an indigenous community talking about land rights, and then transition to an afternoon of snorkeling or exploring mangrove systems. The hands-on field work is an extremely rewarding experience for passionate scientists and environmentalists alike. The structure of SFS classes allows me to shift my perspective on global issues, and think outside of my own personal opinions. Studying abroad is the perfect opportunity to become more of a global citizen and SFS can help you become more aware of global issues.

Becoming involved in local communities is one of the main reasons I wanted to study abroad, so I knew I would need to find a program that allowed me to engage with the local culture. SFS offers many opportunities to become involved with local groups and organizations. I have spent Saturdays teaching local girls English and how to swim, there have been opportunities to play games like volleyball and soccer in local communities, and visits to different islands have been extremely beneficial in understanding the local customs and cultures of Bocas del Toro.

Coming to Panama, I understood that it would be much different then in the United States, and I welcomed that change. I wanted to experience life in a different place, with a different history, and a different perspective. I have grown significantly from this experience, and I know I will continue to grow and change during the rest of my semester here in Bocas del Toro. Bocas is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen and I am surrounded by beaches and beautiful rainforests. The people I have met here have become my family, and I know that I have a massive support system within the SFS community.

SFS as a whole has been an unforgettable experience, and over the course of the semester, I will continue to appreciate all the amazing things that I will do as a SFS student. If you are looking for an unforgettable and unique study abroad experience, the School for Field Studies is the perfect program. There are so many once in a lifetime opportunities that I have been able to complete due to the programs that SFS offers, and I will always remember my semester in Bocas del Toro

By: Natalie Mansergh