It’s always interesting returning to your own country after being abroad, but it’s especially interesting whenever you return after such a long time. Living in another country changes you subtly, day by day, in really small ways that you can’t see until you hit such a strong contrast as coming back to your own country.
Things like the way you greet people on the street, the way you interact at the store, and the way you carry yourself day to day. These differences start out being foreign, and exotic, and for the first couple weeks abroad are really intriguing. Then, you slowly start getting used to them, trying a couple of them for yourself. After a while they are just normal everyday life again. Our minds are amazing things that can adapt to any situation to survive. The longer you stay in this new culture, the more you start to adopt their ways and customs.
This is what makes coming back such a learning experience. You realize how much you have changed. How much of the other culture has attached to you. And this can cause a wide range of feelings, and is often characterized as reverse culture shock. This is because you suddenly realize you are different from when you left, and because you adapted the other culture partially, you are suddenly different in your own home country. The place that should feel like home suddenly feels just a little bit off.
This is definitely what I felt whenever I came back from Japan. I was really happy to back in the United States. However, I couldn’t help shaking the feeling that I missed Japan. I missed the culture and the people. I feel this is one of the most important parts of the study abroad experience.
It is the time when you really have an eye opening experience. You realize your own country’s culture isn’t superior to any other culture. That you can love another culture, and your home culture at the same time. That you as a person can embody the best aspects of two or more different cultures and help share this open-mindedness with others.
Although it has been a little bit difficult adapting back into the everyday life of an American student, it has been worth it to travel to and experience such a different part of the world. I will carry the things that I learned in Japan for the rest of my life, and I can’t wait to return to my home away from home.