Returning back to the states was definitely a weird feeling. Since I had never left the US before I didn’t know what it would be like coming back. I was afraid that returning home everything I used to like, I wouldn’t, and my world would be turned upside down. Getting back into the states ended up not being all that exciting after getting off the plane because I learned about customs, a nightmare. After two hours of waiting in line for some man to just tell me to walk past him, the only thing I cared about was getting out of the airport and my fears and wonders about returning home quickly left me. I definitely miss Budapest every day. Walking around my hometown is not anywhere near the same as walking around Budapest every day. Looking back, it feels like a dream and I have to remind myself that it was real.
My experience abroad definitely changed me. People always make fun of students who study abroad and come back saying they are “cultured”. It seems like a silly thing to say but as someone who lived in a small US bubble for her whole life, I definitely feel like cultured is a great way to describe my change. I now understand a lot more perspectives, see the privileges that come with being an American. There are downfalls as well but being from America and having such a melting pot of people around the country I was able to be open-minded abroad and get the most out of my experience. I was able to appreciate all the cultures, customs, and quirks of different people and countries. My cousin came to my house a week after I got back, and he said he could tell within five minutes that my experience had made me a lot more mature. He said the same thing happened to him, it happens without you noticing it but when you come back you are different, and you can do more. I know that having traveled to 18 countries and over 10 on my own I am definitely more independent and more confident in myself. In my daily life, I think I notice that I have more patience. Europeans move much slower than Americans which really tested my patience abroad but I adjusted and am now more patient in my day to day interactions.
My program director said that every year students say that returning home is harder than going abroad. You prepare to go abroad for months and months, reading about what to expect, knowing things will be frustrating, knowing you will have to have a very open mind. When you return home if you’re like me, you push off thinking about it, pretend it isn’t happening, and just make sure you make your flight on time. My director said that because people do not prepare to go home it can be much harder to make the return than it was to arrive. I was nervous about this and afraid that adjusting would be really hard. This was not the case for me. I had fully enjoyed my experience abroad, never complaining about cultural differences, just embracing them. Because of this when I got home, I chose to just enjoy what I wasn’t able to experience abroad. I went to get free refills at my favorite restaurant that has really great service. Both of those are not available in Europe and I definitely missed it. Overall, the reverse culture shock was not bad, and I think, much like the culture shock of going abroad, it is all about keeping an open mind and embracing the differences.
My best piece of advice for future students is to take advantage of every opportunity available and to enjoy every minute. I traveled every weekend and got to experience so many incredible cultures. I also got to travel around Hungary with my amazing program. Some people in my program had class schedules that allowed them to volunteer to teach young Hungarians English. Whatever you can do, do it. I would also recommend enjoying every minute. That seems obvious but some people I met only talked about how excited they were to go home, complained about things that were different and were counting down the days waiting to leave. Those people had closed minds and weren’t enjoying the incredible culture of our home country or other places they traveled to. When you get home, you will be able to say “oh I’m so glad I can do this or that” when you are abroad you should take advantage of everything different that you can do and appreciate it. I know I miss my walks along the Danube every day, my quick ride to the airport with the world at my fingertips, and the incredible people of Hungary. I wish I could go back and do it all over again. When you go abroad make sure you have no regrets, I know I don’t.