By Alexandria Polanosky of Ohio University
Learning to appreciate your home country as much as your host country
As your time in your host country is winding down and you realize you only have a few days left with all the new people you've meant in this place that has become a second home to you, you might be fearful of returning to your home country, and sometimes the readjustment of reverse culture shock is not the only concern. Fear of leaving the new and returning to the old might settle in before you're even on your flight back. You might be worried that home will have suddenly become boring and ugly compared to the beautiful mountains, oceans or architecture you've just spent months of your life surrounded by.
I know this feeling all too well. I watched the sunset behind the mountain range outside of my apartment window while drinking wine for the past sixth months and occasionally took a quick drive to the beach on the weekends with so many amazing new friends, so how in the world would my suburban, landlocked home feel like home at all anymore?
After having been back in the U.S. for about a year now, I can assure all of you abroad that your life is not over once you come back home. Even as my plane flew toward the Pittsburgh airport, I was surprised to find that I had forgotten how tree-filled and green the rolling hills were. This realization was the first of many reassurances I came across that my home here is just as beautiful and exciting as my home was there.
I've heard far too many people speak of their experiences at home or even across the U.S. as insignificant compared to any place they've visited abroad, but there's no reason to consider any location lesser than another. I've traveled half way around the world, but I've yet to reach the west coast of my own country. There are some absolutely spectacular places I'd love to visit here that would be just as exciting as visiting somewhere a 20-hour plane ride away.
Your study abroad experience should be one that helps you acknowledge the beauty of the whole world, no matter where you might find yourself. No matter how much you believe your home country is boring compared to where you just had the most spectacular experience of your life thus far, it's not. It's simply familiar to you, and there are always new adventures to be had.
Unlike your time at home, your time abroad usually has a predetermined end. This allows you to embrace more spontaneity and do things you might not normally do at home. Use this time to uncover the spontaneous and easygoing side of yourself that is sometimes buried by our lifestyle back at home, and instead of dreading leaving that behind, bring that mindset back with you! Embrace new things at home, be a tourist in your hometown and keep searching for new places to explore and discover wherever you are.
Maybe your study abroad destination will help you determine new goals for your future, maybe it will ignite a passion within you, maybe you'll end up even more confused about who you are or maybe it will barely have any effect on you at all. Regardless, bring all of these reflections home with you rather than fearing having to leave them behind when you depart.
However, you can learn just as much about yourself in your hometown as you can abroad. You can also have an equivalent amount of adventure while seeing the unique beauty of every place you visit.
So take in every moment of every day of your time in your host country. The people are just as important as the place, and your time there will be a beautiful, fleeting experience. Don't panic as the days start winding down; just pay attention to every second even more. Take these memories home with you and appreciate them, but do not regret leaving them behind to come home. That experience is one tiny moment, no matter how impactful, in our constantly moving lives.
Studying abroad should not make you regret growing up in the place you did, you'd be surprised by the amount of comforts and familiarities that you would eventually grow to miss if you left this place behind. However, if you believe you found your new home abroad and you're serious about permanently moving there I'm incredibly happy for you, but never disown where you came from.
It's where all your hopes and dreams of traveling began, and it is just as beautiful as any place you'll find no matter how far your journeys take you.