Words by Anya Lazarus
As we all drive home for Christmas, we can’t help but reminisce about everything we’ve done in our penultimate semester of university. This is the time of the year where you start to re-evaluate your life with the whole “new year, new me” mentality that is sure to grace our Facebook news feeds in a few weeks.
Christmas break after study abroad year is a unique one. You start to think about not only the past semester, but also what you were doing this time last year. This time last year for me consisted of wearing sunglasses and t-shirts during the day and a light jacket during the night. Today’s Timehop reminded me of that last Christmas frat party I attended with all of my international friends before we all parted ways and things were truly never going to be the same again.
However, these past few months have made me realise how #blessed I am that I even had that opportunity at all; rather than missing it, wishing I was there and making myself upset over it. Honestly, I was dreading coming back to the UK after such an amazing year away. It has been a ride and a half to recover from those post study abroad blues, but here’s a few tips to help you settle back into reality.
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*deep and cheese warning* I moan about this place a lot, especially after coming from a year away in a totally different campus environment. But this year is turning out to be a lot better than I thought already, new people, new and more confident me and some new postcards on my wall. I am finally starting to realise that I actually am too blessed to be stressed 🤗😊
If you are lucky, you will return from your year abroad with friends still at your university and a solid network ready for when you get back. However, a lot of sandwich/placement year students often don’t have many friends left because they all graduated the previous year.
Picture this – Like me, you are unpacking your bags in your new uni room (without a room mate! – Sorry, love you Maci), and you sit on your bed with all your belongings surrounding you and all you can think of is, “well..shit, what do I do now?”
This might sound familiar from pre-freshers and pre-study abroad, but it is also SUPER helpful post-study abroad. It’s time to start again! New course mates, new housemates, new drinking buddies. I’ve been very lucky to get on super well with my new course and house mates, I also felt like I needed my own friends that weren’t in the comfort blanket of living next door to me..so I joined the rugby team.
It’s super important to keep proactive in a time where your mental health isn’t great, which it most likely won’t be at this point in your life. Let me tell you, I don’t do sports; I’ve never liked sports or had any interest. Thankfully, when I turned up to the taster session, I met 30 other girls who were exactly like me. No experience whatsoever, just wanted to meet new people and have fun trying something out. Joining this team has definitely improved my university experience this semester, and even though I wasn’t able to attend most games due to final year commitments, just knowing that I have a fun group of people to go out with, spending endless hours gossiping over cups of tea or having random dance parties with has definitely made these past 3 months that little bit easier.
Get involved with your study abroad office at your university! There’s nothing worse than having these incredible experiences and friends telling you to shut up every time you start a sentence with “last year on my year abroad..” IT HAPPENED, WE DID A COOL THING AND WE ARE ALLOWED TO TALK ABOUT IT! Joining your study abroad department encourages you to talk about your experiences, and you get to help other students find their own way through the process. You basically get paid to talk about your year abroad, what could be better?
GET YOUR HEAD DOWN
Final year is final year. At the end of the day you are here to get a degree. You worked your butt off to get into your university in the first place, you’ve done 3 years, don’t give up now! The finish line might seem so far away, but it’s also slowly creeping up at the same time. You might have to miss a few nights out at the local club and you will often hear people say to you “but you never come out anymore!” However, this is the time where you have to be selfish. You are here for you and only you. You are here to work hard, achieve good grades and graduate with a degree that will make yourself, and your family proud when you walk across that stage. Your future self will thank you for the night you stayed in the library.
DON’T FORGET YOUR STUDY ABROAD FRIENDS
The worst thing you can do is fall out of contact with your study abroad friends. You might have spent the whole year with your drinking buddy that you met on the first day because she was on your floor, but once you leave, most likely you will never hear from Brittany again. Of course you should try to keep friendships going for as long as you can, but sometimes they just naturally run their course. The ones that text you first, the ones that you can speak to for hours without speaking for months at a time, those are the ones that you must treasure. Friendships that mean the most will persevere. Also try and visit if you can! On those last few days and teary goodbyes at the airport, I knew I’d see the ones that mattered the most again. Also if they are from Europe or Americans studying abroad in Europe, then there is no excuse! European flights are often cheaper than a train home for the weekend so, you know, hop on a plane and have some fun in Europe, and pretend you are still on your year abroad!
LOOK TO THE FUTURE
Not for after uni, no no no. Your future self can worry about that. I mean have something to look forward to! Give yourself a little light at the end of the tunnel. Book a cheap flight for the day after a big deadline and go spend the weekend exploring somewhere. Give yourself a treat to reward yourself for all the hard work you’re doing! When I sat down for the first time this year to start my dissertation research, reality set in and it wasn’t pretty. That whole day consisted of 3 crying phone calls home over-thinking in my what I’m doing with my life and asking why am I even at university anymore if I’m not enjoying it. So I booked a flight to visit my international friends in Copenhagen for the weekend. It gave me something to look forward to and motivated me to push through my assignments so by the time the departure day came around, I felt like I deserved this treat.
Studying abroad has been and will be the best experience of your life. It is difficult to adjust to the reverse culture shock of returning home after such a long time away. But this time last year when I was picturing my life back in England, I’d never thought I’d actually look forward to my 2nd semester at university.
Study abroad blues are valid, they are real and they suck a whole lot. But with time, we all get through it.