Studying abroad was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. The friends that I made and lessons that I learned have guided my outlook on the future since my flight touched down in Denver, Colorado and I made the long trek back to Nebraska. I’d be lying, though, if I told you that I wasn’t excited to return to the United States. I see my experience in Poland as one of deep value not just because of my studies and the relationships that I have forged a world over, but because it has already transformed the way that I view and desire to live back at home. Perhaps the biggest struggle that I had in Poland was adjusting to a daily and academic lifestyle that was completely up for interpretation, negotiation, and often lacked hard deadlines or due dates. I craved the structure of my life back in the United States, but now that I’ve returned, it is this structure that is ironically conflicting for me.
There’s never a shortage of deadlines, due dates, or obligations. Graduation, internship applications, and prospective careers are the foci of my life now that I’ve returned, and that’s okay, but it’s far different than the previous nine months. It’s no longer an evening meal with an international friend group, a university trip to Kraków, or introduction of a new holiday celebration that takes precedence each day, but rather, a more competitive and structured lifestyle with an emphasis on professional and financial advancement. While there are merits to both lifestyles, I have felt as if I’m caught somewhere between the two conflicting ways of life and attempting to find methods that balance future goals alongside the desire to see, experience, and familiarize myself with new perspectives and places.
Perhaps one of the best outlets for me since returning home has been not only staying in touch with my friends abroad, but also reconnecting with my peers and classmates that are also returning to the United States or who have been in a similar situation. Discussing our mutual experiences and comparing and contrasting them with our normalized routines at home not only helps me readjust, but also highlights the aspects that I miss most about Poland as well as those that I enjoy in the United States. With this being the outlet that best suits me to deal with reverse culture shock, I have great excitement to continue working with international students as well as my peers that are planning study abroad adventures of their own when I return for my final semester at Nebraska Wesleyan.
If you’d asked me about my future plans even a couple of weeks prior to my departure for Wrocław, Poland there’s no doubt that I would have had a specific trajectory for my life in mind and a grand plan of how to get there. I still have plans and goals after this experience, but I now have a far better idea of which aspects I can control and those that I cannot. If I take anything away from my time abroad, it is that some of the most rewarding experiences stem from taking a detour from the grand plan that I keep in the back of my mind. As a result, I’m far more open to enjoying the moment and making the most out of the opportunities that are in front of me. It means taking that family trip to South Dakota, attending that friend’s birthday party, or RSVP’ing for that summer wedding. It means not getting so discouraged with the flight that’s been cancelled the evening before it’s supposed to depart, but instead getting to know the grandmother from Yorkshire and the Scottish storm chaser that you’ve been seated next to on the rescheduled flight. Minor actions such as these are the agents of change in my life that I have brought home with me, and implementing them each day is one of the best culture shock vaccines that I could ask for.