How To Cope After Coming Home From Exchange

So you’ve gone on exchange, had crazy adventures, made awesome friends, felt like your life would never be the same, came back home and… Nothing’s changed?

I know that feel, fam.

The gap between who we were overseas and our life back home can sometimes be so wide that we fall into it. Reverse culture-shock is a real thing, and it can be just as disorienting as its opposite. Not everyone realises that once you return home, you may need a travel guide for your own backyard.

Luckily, we’ve prepared one for you. Whether you’ve freshly returned or you’re facing the pointy-end of your semester abroad, the below tips should help you make a smooth re-entry into normality.

Stay busy

A big part of post-exchange depression is boredom. Robbed of the weekly benders and endless parade of friendly strangers, you will quickly reach clinical levels of restlessness if you don’t keep active.

Once you’re back home, tee up as many coffee dates as you can. You’ve got loads to talk about, and the last place you want to be is stuck at home getting moony-eyed over your exchange pics.

Accept that life won’t always be so exciting

The hard truth is that giddy sense of exhilaration probably won’t come back any time soon.

But that feeling is unsustainable, anyway. In fact, if you’d stayed on exchange long enough, it would have disappeared all by itself. That slightly drunken feeling of “Woo my life is fucking awesome let’s do shots!” is a short-term thing restricted to road trips, Contiki tours and the “honeymoon phase” of living abroad. Don’t confuse it with lasting happiness.

Don’t try to emulate exchange

Trying to recreate your exchange experience will just leave you with a wicked case of reverse home-sickness. No matter how hard you try, your parent’s house will not magically become a dorm room filled with drinking buddies. Trying to pretend will just get you yelled at and possibly kicked out.

Make some changes

That said, you also need to realise that you’re probably not the same person you were before you left for your overseas adventure. You may want to reflect those changes by redecorating your room, taking language lessons or joining a travel community at your uni.

Hopefully these changes will make you feel less like you’re taking a step backward by being back home and more like an opportunity to figure out what motivates you.

Try new things in your home town

Sure, your accent might not win you instant friends anymore, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have adventures.

Research “tourist guides” to your home town or city and see if there’s anything you haven’t knocked over yet. Themed bars, (drunken) trivia nights, underground clubs – you’d be surprised how many local exploits you can rack up with a little investigation.

Stay in touch

One thing you probably can hold onto is the friendships that made your experience special. You probably won’t be able to stay in touch with everyone (during exchange your Facebook friends-list blows up like a New Year’s bar tab) but it’s worth keeping in contact with your core crew.

You never know, you might even be able to meet up on your next trip. Speaking of which…

Plan your next escape

This should not include obsessively researching travel options, night after night, without making any decisions, though you will be sorely tempted to do so. Trying to bury your boredom under ten-thousand browser tabs will only make you feel trapped and anxious.

Rather, try and focus on the more salient aspects of travel. I recommend coming up with a savings plan first and foremost – you can always decide on destinations later. Putting away money will make your next trip feel like an inevitability, rather than a far-flung pipedream. That’s a concrete step you can make today towards your next big adventure.

(Lead image: James Stewart/Flickr CC)