Back to School: Keeping it Cool Post-Study Abroad

by Danielle DeSimone

Welcome back from your high school study abroad program! Whether you were abroad for a few weeks, months, or a year, you’ve just come back from a life-changing experience that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life. After having such an incredible time abroad it can be difficult to get used to life back home, but we’ve got a few tips for you that will have you back in the swing of things in no time! 

Girl reading an InStyle magazine lying on a couch
Take some serious you-time and just chill out for a few days. Maybe sleep off all that jet lag!

Take a Time-Out

When you first come home from studying abroad, you might feel like you need to immediately jump into a whirlwind reunion tour of friends and family. Seeing everyone you’ve missed while you’ve been abroad is so exciting, and we know you can’t wait to share your stories and souvenirs! However, it’s okay to take a breather to decompress a little bit and tackle the symptoms of reverse culture shock 

Not only will you probably be jetlagged and exhausted from all those late-night flamenco dance lessons in Seville, but you also might want to take time to yourself to reflect on your experience. Studying abroad is literally a once-in-a-lifetime (or maybe twice or thrice, because you can always study abroad in college or go to grad school abroad!) opportunity that shifts your worldview and opens you up to other ways of life. 

It’s okay if you need a few days to slowly assimilate into your old way of life and reflect on your time abroad. By decompressing for a bit when you first come home, you’ll be better prepared for when school starts up again and it’s back to in-class essays and cramming for chem tests.

Get Back into the Swing of Things

Coming back from an incredible experience like studying abroad can make home seem a little, well, boring, pedestrian, gauche, lame, really any and all synonyms you can come up with. It’s important to remember that there are plenty of things at home that are also exciting that you can be a part of! We know you missed something while you were abroad. 

Once you’ve taken a few days to yourself, keep yourself busy so you can distract yourself from those post-study abroad blues. Jump right back into those hobbies that you love and have missed so much while away! Anything from participating in school clubs, sports, or volunteering to spending time with your friends and family can help you feel like you are back at home again.

You can also get involved with local international and cultural clubs at school to continue your education in your study abroad country’s traditions and customs too! Is your school missing the club you’re looking for? Make one yourself!

Page of an old photo album
Don’t just create Facebook albums, make a scrapbook with photos, train tickets, museum maps, etc.

Scrapbook Your Heart Out

Feeling a little blue and wishing you could go back overseas already? Find a way to commemorate your study abroad experience in a creative way! Whether you’re old school and like to scrapbook, you’re trying to be the next Spielberg with a video compilation of your adventures through the Amazon Rainforest, or you decide to write reflective essays and blog posts, channeling your energy in creative ways will help you document your time abroad in a fun way. 

Once you’ve finished that boss scrapbook, you can also share it with your friends and family. What better way to relive your experiences and tell people about your adventures than to show them?

Watch Your Words

So you just had this incredible experience in another country; you learned new things, met new people, finally hiked Machu Picchu, and maybe even tried some local Peruvian delicacies like cuy (don’t think about that fourth grade class guinea pig you used to have!). You’re bursting with cool stories and dying to post thousands of #TBT pics of your trip abroad, but try not to start every sentence with, “When I was in [insert country name here]…”

Although your friends are definitely excited and supportive of you taking on this awesome adventure, you might also notice that they get annoyed if you constantly talk about your trip. This doesn’t mean that they don’t care about you or your stories! It’s just hard for them to picture you having all of these experiences without them, and it might make them feel like you don’t want to be at home with them, if you’re constantly talking about your time in another country with other, new friends.

You shouldn’t be afraid to talk about your time abroad. Just be conscious of how often you are doing it and share it in thoughtful way.
Friends talking on a college campus
Get back into the swing of things with clubs, friend time, family time, and/or volunteering at school.

Listening Is Key

Just like you’re dying to tell everyone about your adventures overseas, your friends and family probably want to tell you about their summers/semesters/year as well! Don’t forget to ask about their lives and show them that you care. Their experiences are important too (even if they didn’t get to eat as many gyros as you).

Now that you’re back, you can also talk to your friends and family about the future! Map out some road trips or make a campaign game plan with your friend who is running for senior class president. Creating new memories with your loved ones will help you get back into the swing of things at home.

Rock Your New Threads

Let’s be honest, we know you went shopping while you were abroad. Once you’re back home, don’t be afraid to show off that new Argentina soccer jersey, or that snazzy leather jacket you got in Florence. Your clothes come with a story, and by wearing them you can not only remember the incredible times you had while abroad, but also show your friends and family pieces of your trip!

There’s no better way to head back to school than in sick, international style. Remember to strut your stuff! What good is that newly developed Parisian fashion sense without the effortless attitude (and maybe shoes) to match? 

Connect With Other Study Abroad Alumni

You might feel like you can’t talk to your friends back home about your experiences overseas, but guess what? You are now part of a community of study abroad alumni. There are hundreds of students who love travel and learning from other cultures, just like you! 

Keep in touch with the other students that were on your study abroad program with you; they’ll know better than anyone what you’ve experienced, and will definitely want to relive the memories with you.

Leave a review for your study abroad program and help sway future study abroaders to go on your program. You can also join online communities on social media either through your study abroad program or even just in the study abroad and travel community, where you can talk about all things adventure-related!

Womens clothing hanging on a rack
We know you went shopping abroad, so rock those new threads!

Bring Back the Goods

If you have some savings (and enough room in your suitcase), bring back gifts for your close family and friends! Giving them small, physical pieces of your trip will allow you to share your experiences with those closest to you, making it easier to tell your stories and to remember your adventures.

It’s also a nice “thank you” for anyone who helped you along the way to your study abroad adventure. This includes teachers! If you have a teacher you’re particularly close to, or a teacher who helped or inspired you to study abroad, it’s not a bad idea to bring them something back to show your appreciation. This also gives you a chance to talk to them about your time abroad. Who knows, maybe they can help you start a project in the upcoming year on something you learned about while you were abroad! 

Keep the Magic Alive

When you first come back from your time abroad, you’ll probably be bursting with enthusiasm about everything you saw and learned while in [insert country name here]. 

Want to keep the magic alive? Bring what you’ve learned and the passions you’ve developed abroad into your day-to-day life. Did you fall in love with Japanese cuisine while you were studying there? Try perfecting the art of the perfect sushi roll! Did French literature just blow your mind? Start a book club. Still missing the rhythm of Argentine tango clubs? Take dance lessons back home! 

Whatever you do, don’t let your time abroad fade into the sunset. Keep your love of all things international and carry it with you every day in everything you do.

You never know, one of these passions could turn into a college major, a fulfilling hobby, or even a lifelong career.

Plan Your Next Adventure

As a high school student, you’ve really set yourself ahead of the game by studying abroad at such a young age. Most people who study abroad go in college, and often wish that they could more than once! Because you’ve already gone overseas before you can legally vote, you still have years of travel ahead of you that you can fill by studying abroad in college, or maybe by volunteering, interning, or even teaching English abroad.

Suitcase with jean jacket, French passport, and aviator sunglasses
Don't let that passport get dusty!

It's never too soon to hit the road again

Regardless of where you go and what you decide to do, don’t let the post-high school study abroad blues get you down! Now that you’ve gotten a taste for the incredible world of cultural exploration and adventuring, you’ll be hooked for life and will definitely go abroad again.

Welcome to the world of travel-addicts! It’s a jet-lagged, awe-inspiring, tapas-filled life, and here’s a hint: you’re gonna love it.

Ready to plan your (next) adventure? Use MyGoAbroad to save and compare programs today!