Tag Archives: reverse culture shock

Miss You Greece, Be Back Soon!

I’m home. It feels strange to call any place other than my little apartment in Athens home now, but this is it. Coming back home has been difficult, more so than adjusting to my home abroad was. Little things like going to the store and not bagging my own groceries, the severe lack of Greek food, and inability to walk anywhere I need to go serve as a constant reminder of how different my life was abroad. I miss walking to Kekko’s each morning to get my coffee, stumbling upon ruins throughout the city and speaking Greek to anyone and everyone in my general area. I didn’t realize how much I had come to love the culture and people I’d come to know until this point. Needless to say, I’m experiencing a heavy dose of reverse culture shock that for some reason I didn’t think would affect me. I think what makes leaving more difficult though is the uncertainty of it all. Here, back home with my family and friends I’ve known for years, I was sure to return. Leaving Greece though, a country that I’d come to love and appreciate immeasurably, I can’t be sure that I will go back. In a sense that makes it far more special that I had been able to experience such a way of life at all, but also far more heart breaking.

When I first got back, readjusting was overwhelming. As time goes on though, I’m incorporating some of the things I enjoyed in Greece into my daily routine. The last time I went out to eat with my family, we dined together taverna style, sharing different appetizers and main courses among the table, and they really enjoyed it. They, like I had, realized that eating in that way allows you to taste a variety of foods rather than just one, wastes less food (someone will want to finish what you won’t) and is noticeably cheaper. I’ve continued my Greek lessons on my own and hope to make it my third language so that when I do return, which I plan on doing in the next year, I can speak in entire conversations with everyone I come across. For now, I’ll be working as the student coordinator of an organization that I love, the Democracy Project, and returning to tutoring my students. I know I’ll continue to miss Greece and the many friends I made there, but I’m also very grateful to be home with my family and friends from home. Senior year is sure to fly by between two senior theses, law school applications, and working, and before long hopefully I’ll be visiting my favorite city again. Until then, I feel incredibly blessed to have had this experience, and grateful to Gilman for making it possible. Until next time, Θα είμαι πίσω σύντομα, Ελλάδα


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Filed under Destiny in Greece, Western Europe

Farewell and Reflection

Saying goodbye to all of the friends that I made in Paris was very hard for me. They were the people who I had grown close to throughout my time abroad, so there were lots of tears. We all promised to keep in touch and that this would not be the last time we would see each other. It was hard to say goodbye to Paris as well. I had the best experience of my life. On my last day, I decided to walk around the neighborhood and listen to music. I wanted to absorb the beauty of Paris for the last time.

My friend Sofia from my program, AIFS

My friend Sofia from my program, AIFS

Upon arriving back in the United States, I found myself still speaking French. For example, at the airport I would say “merci” and “pardon” instead of “thank you” and “excuse me.” I remember my mother asking me a question and I replied “ouais,” which means “yeah.” It felt surreal being at home. Just yesterday I was walking around Paris and eating at a café with friends. I love my hometown, Chicago, but I miss the architecture of Paris so much. I miss being able to step outside and be less than five minutes away from a boulangerie. However, I was so excited to eat Chicago pizza again. It’s what we’re famous for. I was happy to be able to find exactly what I was looking for at the grocery store. And of course, I was happy to see my friends and family again.

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower

Studying abroad has been such a life changing experience for me. At first, I planned on going to graduate school and earning my Ph.D. in Chicago. Now, I think I want to earn a degree abroad or at least in another city. There’s so much to see around the world and I want to try to experience it all. I want to be a global citizen. For now, I will continue my study of the French language so that I can become fluent and plan for my summer visit to Paris!

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Filed under Christina in Paris, Western Europe

To Istanbul and Beyond

When I first arrived in Turkey, everything was very new and strange. However, all of that was expected because I was in a place I had never been. When I got back to the U.S., everything was strange, but since I have lived here my whole life I never expected it to be. I thought I would come back and I wouldn’t even think about it.

Obviously that was not the case. Of course I heard English everywhere, but I also heard English quite often in Turkey. The thing was all the American accents. The first day I was back I went to the mall in town and I heard American accents everywhere. I think I did a double take every time an American accent was in listening distance. I think my mind still thought I was walking around one of the massive malls in Istanbul.

Another thing that took me a while to get used to when I got back to the states were the flushes on toilets. The first time I had to flush a toilet it took me about thirty seconds because I could not locate the lever to actually flush it. Don’t worry, I am managing just fine now.

One of my favorite things about Turkey is the many different lifestyles you can experience. There are cities like Istanbul and Izmir that are busy, modern metropolises, and then there are very small, nearly self-sufficient villages. It is extremely interesting to visit both of these in the same day because then you can really see the contrast. On the other hand. the U.S. is completely modernized in that sense.

Something else that is different between the States and Turkey is the traffic. Turkish drivers are the best drivers and the worst drivers all at the same time. Their precision is near perfect, but that is only because they refuse to use the painted lines and end up coming centimeters close to the next car. When I was driving home from the airport in the U.S., the first thing I noticed was the amount of space there was between cars. Now, don’t get me wrong, it is exhilarating riding in a Turkish cab and it is going to be kind of boring not having to worry about my well-being. However, it is also nice not having to worry about my well being.

Since I have been back I have been asked, “What will/do you miss the most?” about fifteen times. That question is almost impossible to tackle. The first and foremost will be the amazing people I met while abroad. I met people that I hope to never grow apart from, which will be a challenge being that almost none of us share a home country. Another obvious thing I am going to miss is all the amazing Turkish food, especially breakfast food. Turkish people know how to do breakfast better than most. There was never any bacon, but they more than make up for it.

One of the things I am glad to have back now that I am in the U.S. are usable sidewalks everywhere. There were definitely sidewalks in Istanbul, but they didn’t always reach my apartment. There are extremely narrow streets in Istanbul that not only cars, but garbage trucks have to share with people. I have had many run-ins with different vehicles while walking home.

Like I said in one of my previous posts, I have become quite confused about my future, but in a good way. I want to seek out all the goals I had when I left, I just might want to push those goals back a couple of years to pursue other goals that came up this past year. I got the experience to teach English as a second language while I was abroad, and I may want to experience that. To be honest, I have no idea what I want to do right after graduation, and I am okay with that as long as it involves some kind of world experience.

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Filed under Western Europe, Zachary in Turkey

Reverse Culture Shock

Reverse culture shock is a phenomenon I hardly believed was real when I set off for my study abroad. I could understand the waves of shock I felt as I studied in Thailand and half expected them before the plane even landed. After months I could feel the culture shock lessening and eventually it was relatively absent in my day-to-day life abroad. Two weeks have passed since I’ve returned home and I can say with absolute certainty: Reverse culture shock is real.

Not only is this strange type of culture shock real, it’s far worse than anything I experienced during my 10 months in Thailand. In the few weeks I’ve been home, I’ve found myself thrown into a sea of confusion, anxiety, and frustration.

My lifestyle in Asia was so scarily different from the average American lifestyle that for the first week I was actually anxious about a lot of things. Thailand is notable as a land of laid back attitudes and ‘Thai Time’ is a very real thing that I’ve gotten used to—patiently waiting an hour for a friend or even a teacher is commonplace in Thailand. America, in contrast, is so avidly impatient that I found myself anxious and confused at how quickly people raise their voice or get angry at the slightest inconvenience. This—paired with the general lack of politeness in the workplace—has made my first week back to work one of constant anxiety.

Of course, there are a mountain of things I missed while abroad that I’m happy to have back. Among other things, the wealth of creature comforts like reliable internet access, the ability to converse with anyone at ease, and more dependable transportation have been on my list of missed things. But of them all, my friends and family are definitively what I’m most happy about now that I’m home.

Looking forward, my time abroad has given me opportunities I want to expand upon in the future. I hope to be able to spread awareness of the positive aspects of studying, even for a short time, in another country and the educational advantages it serves. After college I wish to work internationally in Asia and continue my education beyond my home country. In a way, I believe studying abroad has opened my eyes to how integral an international outlook is in the modern era and I hope to be able to bring this to the table in my future work experiences. Ultimately, studying abroad has driven my need to grow as an individual and to help people internationally.

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Filed under Culture Shock, Doug in Thailand, South & Central Asia

Farewell, England

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G. K. Chesterton

It is unbelievable to me that my adventures while studying abroad in England have come to an end. It is a strange feeling. The feeling of coming back to the same place being a different person. My time studying abroad in England almost feels like a dream because it happened so fast. As I looked out the window of the plane coming back to Florida it felt like it was yesterday that I was leaving. I definitely have noticed myself experiencing the reverse culture shock and it is a more clear realization on how different Americans are culturally from the British. Although the differences may be small, the small differences are what make up the big difference. Yes, we are definitely friendlier. The British have mannerisms that we don’t. In America, I have the privilege of going to a grocery store and not having to bag my own groceries. The British and Americans may speak the same language, but we really don’t in terms of context.

While I do miss England, I definitely do not miss the food. I am so glad to be reunited with American food! Yes, I said it. Food in the United States is so much better. Hands down. On a serious note, I am appreciative to have the privileges of being an American. Part of the reverse culture shock that I had was just realizing how many privileges I have as an American and the opportunities the United States has to offer to its citizens.

I was sad to leave on a flight to go back to Florida, because frankly, I didn’t want to leave. I embarked on a journey and adventure of personal, educational, and professional growth when I decided to study abroad in England. I look back and I absolutely achieved my goals. However, as I grew in every aspect I realized that there is no limit to growth. True discovery means the understanding of always having more discoveries to uncover. By being abroad, I gained the understanding and knowledge of the world and myself. For me, my perspective on what I thought the world was and the people in it expanded and evolved. I advocate for everyone to go abroad and see the world, because to see only a small part of it is such a shame. There is a bigger picture to discover. Once you see the bigger picture you realize that you can impact it to make a change.

I miss England and hopefully I will be back one day. I created amazing memories with new experiences and great people. When I was in England I was able to make it my home. I think there are both advantages and disadvantages when it comes to living in the United States, United Kingdom, or any other country. I miss the small differences in England, but I miss the people I left behind more. I love traveling and I love going on flights, but I never wanted to go on a flight more until I had to get on a flight back to Florida. As I landed in Florida and looked out the window I saw a plane take off. Once again I found myself looking at a plane taking off and wishing I was on it back to England. Without realizing it, I made England my home. Coming back it didn’t feel like I was coming home. It felt like was leaving it. Farewell to England, but I promise, I’ll be back.

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Filed under Culture Shock, Lily in the United Kingdom, Western Europe

That Time I Couldn’t Speak My Own Language

The first time I think I really experienced culture shock was when I got to the Istanbul Atatürk Airport passport control. Obviously a lot of the people in line were also foreigners like me, but I was still blown away by the amount of different cultures and ethnicities I was seeing in the line with me. That is also the great thing about Istanbul. It truly is a city of East meets West. There isn’t really one culture, but a melting pot of cultures that make up the city, and I am so privileged to have experienced it.

The thing with culture shock for me is that I was expecting it, so it does not seem as interesting to talk about it. Of course a person is going to be shocked when they move outside of their comfort zone and into a world they have never experienced before. However, the thing that I never thought would happen, especially while I still lived in the country, was reverse culture shock. Now I still have about one month left in Turkey, but I still have had a couple times where I think I have experienced reverse culture shock.

The first time was when I was alone in my bedroom watching one of my favorite TV shows, “How I Met Your Mother.” During this certain scene the main characters are getting into a cab and they tell the driver the place they would like to go. The cab driver’s response is where I got quite anxious. He simply drove off… I know this is not very exciting, but there have been plenty of times when I have taken a taxi while abroad and not known if I was actually going to end up in the right place because of the language barrier. It is especially stressful when I am in a country like Bulgaria when I know absolutely zero Bulgarian. I think the reason I got anxious was because in a way I didn’t understand how easy it was for the taxi driver to understand where he needed to drive his passengers. It has been a while since that has happened to me.

The other time I have experienced reverse culture shock while in Turkey also has to deal with language. Since my American phone doesn’t work in Turkey I had to get a new phone with a Turkish number. I have to add new minutes and texting every month, however my phone shop guy doesn’t speak English very well. I got into this routine of what to say in Turkish to him so I could be in and out within a few minutes. Last month he hired a new girl, so when I went in the last time I dealt with her. She is foreign and speaks perfect English, so this should have been even easier to do than when I deal with my normal phone shop guy. Weirdly enough, it was not. I guess since I had perfected how to explain my plan in Turkish, I never really learned it in English, so when the new girl asked me what to add to my phone I had no idea what to tell her. In the end I figured it out, but it was still extremely shocking that I couldn’t add minutes to my phone in my native language.

Culture shock is an amazing thing that I want to keep experiencing for the rest of my life. There is nothing like it and everyone should have the opportunity to experience it at least once. At the end of June I will return to the States and I am sure I will have plenty more reverse culture shock experiences to tell.

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Filed under Western Europe, Zachary in Turkey

Pushing Your Limits: The Value of Study Abroad

Here’s a graph about culture shock, which should seem familiar since it pops up on this blog a lot.


I’d really like to start this post with: I hate this graph.

“Hate” is a strong word, I know.  If you’d like, I have other words I could use to describe my relationship with this graph: loathe, despise, abhor, detest.

Not any better?  Alright, we’ll stick to hate.

I’m a math major.  And I’ve tried really, really hard, y’all, to spare you from hearing about that.  For example, fun story I almost wrote about: I had the same taxi driver two days in a row, and we ended up becoming friends! The way I was going to tell it: I literally calculated the odds that I would have the same taxi two days in a row– a little under 4 ten thousandths out of 1, for the curious– and then nestled that into a story about Pi Day because it happened in March.  (You’re welcome for changing that up.)

But now I have to write about a line graph, which is so solidly in my Mathematics Zone that there is no way to go about this without a little bit of SCIENCE.

Ahem, sorry for the caps lock, I got excited.

This is a line graph.  While the axes are unlabeled, the x-axis (along the bottom) is pretty obviously time, and the correspondence of “high points” with emotionally positive things, and vice versa, can lead us to guess that the y-axis is “happiness.”


And now, my dear reader, let me add a straight line, marking “constant happiness” from where you began, pre-study abroad.


And now, my dear reader, what do you notice?

You finish below the line of constant happiness.  You end up less happy.  Study abroad is a net negative.


(Disclaimer, it’s not just me: I showed the original, unmarked graph to Juliana, my roommate, for whom– and I quote– even basic math is difficult, and she still immediately asked, “So life will never be as good as before?”)

I’ve studied abroad before, thanks to the US Dept. of State NSLI-Y scholarship, and I can assure you that my life improved significantly.  That summer in Morocco altered my goals in life, political views, interpersonal relationships, perception of myself, America, and Arabs… and all for the better.  Were there low points, both during my trip and during reverse culture shock after?  Of course.

But were my happiness and life, overall, improved?  Of course!

And now, with the amazing opportunity to study abroad a second time with the Gilman Scholarship, yeah, sure, I identify with this graph on some level.  I had a week there in month two where I just wanted to see my friends, the ones I’ve been friends with for years instead of all the ones I’d just met; I anticipate some absolutely terrible reverse culture shock next month, when I want to take a taxi to downtown and listen to live Arabic jazz, and realize I’m in Kentucky where nothing interesting happens ever; of course I’ve had some local minima– er, I mean, “downs.”

But I still hate this graph, and I want you to all know that it gets things so so so so so wrong with regard to the most important part: where you end should be way higher than where you began, because studying abroad is awesome and will make your life better.

Brought to you by your not-so-local math major.

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Filed under Charlotte in Jordan, Culture Shock, middle east