One day removed from the journey back home from my study abroad trip, I’m still a bit jet lagged, but overall I haven’t experienced any extreme reverse culture shock. I was expecting to feel uneasy once home, maybe missing the bustle of Berlin or the feeling of being a foreigner, but being here still feels just like home. Though I haven’t been feeling culture shock, I can tell I’m a changed person now. Being abroad has given me a global perspective I would have never experienced before. Seeing Germany deal with an influx in refugees brings a new perspective to American political viewpoints on immigration, and the comparing and contrasting the healthcare systems of the two countries now has much more depth than before.
Not only has my perspective on politics and policy changed. The experiences I had, from standing in a hot air balloon above Berlin to riding the London Eye to getting a beautiful view of Prague, have changed my idea of a comfort zone. Going from someone who never left the country to someone who’s been to various places across Europe has knocked items off my bucket list and allowed me to expand from my original comfort zone. I’ve challenged myself during this trip, and I suggest that anyone who is risk adverse and doesn’t usually try new things go on a short study abroad experience. It’s really changed my concept of what I am capable of doing.
Aside from getting out of your comfort zone, the second best piece of advice I can give? Bring a journal. Writing down my adventures and what I learned about Germany and myself each day helped me to make sure I didn’t forget any second of my once-in-a-lifetime trip. At first, I was skeptical of journal writing during my trip. That was extra weight to carry around, time I could spend doing something else, etc. and these experiences are so unique, I originally thought there was no way I could forget a single detail. But the time goes by quickly, days blur together, and suddenly I found myself extremely grateful for the events documented in my travel journal.
Looking back on my trip from Berlin to London to Prague (plus a couple layovers in beautiful Iceland!), I am so grateful for this opportunity. Homesickness was brief, and the benefits of hands-on learning and expanding my comfort zone so outweigh the discomfort and disorientation of my first couple days in a new country. I highly recommend the Berlin Public Policy program to anyone looking for a short, exciting study abroad trip, and don’t forget your journal on future travels!