Coping with Reverse Culture Shock
When I got off the plane from Dublin to Minneapolis, I was greeted with the crisp Minnesota air. Needless to say, it took my breath away!
There's no doubt that I had a great time abroad. The only way I can describe my experience is surreal. Imagine having the opportunity to spend 4 months in a fairy-storic (fairytale & historic) city surrounded by all the best people to travel with while gaining work experience through an international internship.
Surreal is the only way I can wrap my head around it.
I'd never really thought about the challenges of adjusting back to my host culture, but it turned out to be more challenging than adapting the culture of Prague.
I remember getting in my car for the first time in almost 4 months. I didn't forget how to drive but I did forget what it was like not to hop on a Tram 9 and not have to worry about parking. I had missed the freedom of driving down country roads while cruising along to my favorite playlist, but after a while of staring at frosted corn fields, my feelings started catching up to me.
It didn't really hit me until I approached a small town that I had driven past time and time before and never raised an eyebrow. This time, as I approached the city of New Prague, I started to bawl.
First of all, it's not just because of the town's name reminded me of the great times I had overseas.. it's how Minnesotans pronounce the town's name that really got me.
Instead of New Prague (PR-AH-GUH)
Minnesotans pronounce it New Pr-AAAAAY-Guh.
It upset me so much. Even more so that I didn't understand why Minnesotans pronounce it the way they do!
This town was nothing new to me! I was on my way to visit my friends who were still finishing up their semester at school. Driving back this time was no different than all the other times I had driven to school for the past 4 years of my college career -- except for the fact that I lived in a whole other continent for 4 months.
If you asked me, I wouldn't be able to pin point this feeling. Things are different. I'm different.
On the rest of my drive after I passed the town of New Prague and calmed down a bit, I thought of an analogy that almost accurately describes the feeling of my reverse culture shock.
It's like I had left my favorite pair of jeans behind.
I haven't worn them for almost 4 months but I was so happy to find them in my closet again, exactly where I left them. I put them back on expecting everything to be the way it had been but it wasn't quite the same. Of course, they're still my favorite! They just fits a little different.
Of course I'm grateful to be reunited with my family and friends. Of course I'm grateful for the opportunity to spend a semester abroad. But I think the most challenging part would be trying to sum up the past 4 months of personal growth, professional development, and navigating life's curve balls into the phrase "it was great!"
I know it'll take time, so I ask for your patience as I re-calibrate my peace of mind.
To the people who are curious about my trip, know that it'll take more than a quick conversation. Let's meet for coffee, perhaps!
To my close ones, know that I'm still the same person. Only with a bigger perspective and a wider view of the possibilities beyond the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
To myself, know that your feelings are valid, even if it takes time. You owe it to yourself.