Many people are ready to go home after studying for 5 months abroad, some are tired of travelling, and others are inspired to live abroad in the future. I’m amongst those who want to live abroad, I’m not sure if it’s in the long run, but at least for a few years after I graduate.
It was easy for me to leave Singapore, but coming home is probably the hardest part of exchange. After living on my own and traveling solo for so long, it’s daunting to think about having to go back to sharing a room and even just meeting expectations of my parents, and fitting back into the mould that society has designed for us. I love the freedom to do what I want, when I want, and even just the space to think creatively rather than to focus on sheer mugging to keep up with the academic rigour back home.
I don’t know if everyone feels the same way after coming back from exchange, but I thought it might be useful to make a list of the positives of returning home… after all, it is inevitable. (Un)fortunately, we’ve all got to come home sometime.
The Good about returning home
1) Meeting family and friends
When you go through tough times, or when you live overseas… you know who your true friends are. They are the ones who stick around and actually bother to keep in touch with you. So there’s much to look forward to when you can meet these true friends again!! Time doesn’t affect these friendships. Many of my closest friends live overseas, and when we do get to meet up, nothing has changed. We’ve matured in our own experiences, but deep inside we’re still the same awkward kids who became friends 7-8 years ago.
And family… I don’t think much explanation is needed. Who wouldn’t miss their family? I haven’t seen my brother in over a year, and one benefit of exchange would be that I get to meet him on my way back 😀
2) Someone to take care of you
When you travel alone or even just living away from home, you have to look after yourself. You have to cook, clean… (Good training for the future), and you don’t really have an off-day even if you are sick. I’m looking forward to just being less of a 女强人 and just being Mummy/Daddy’s little girl again. Haha, I’m so embarrassed to admit that, especially since I usually like to be the strong one who looks after others. But after 5 months of non-stop being on the lookout for myself, I need a break >.<
3) Being a tourist at home
When we travel, we tend to be more daring and spontaneous. We make an effort to look for things to do, especially since we are “only here once”. I think we should bring the same tourist mindset home and continue to have the same passion and drive for life beyond work.
Tips for coming home
1) Try to view home in a different (positive) light
No country is perfect. You hate some things, you are thankful for other things. But focus on what you love about home. When we travel we tend to only see the good of that country, but living there is another story. Living away from home makes you realise the things that you take for granted and that you appreciate in your own home.
‘Livability indexes’ and all that wouldn’t matter if what the country has to offer doesn’t fit your ideal country. Someone might love the energy NYC had to offer, but I didn’t like it at all. It was too overwhelming. Some need nature, and would love living in a small town like Heidelberg or Dartmouth. Others would be bored to death after a few days. You might hate everything about coming home at first, but try to focus on what you do like rather than what you don’t.
2) Give yourself time.
You will have changed and the people back home wouldn’t. It’s hard to summarize all the experiences you’re had into excited conversations with friends. It’s hard to be back to reality and to face the pressure of society… but that’s okay. Things definitely won’t be the same, and it’s important not to beat yourself up and rush back into settling in. It’s a process, just like when you first entered your exchange country.
3) Continue to do what you love.
Maybe it was a new hobby that you picked up overseas, maybe it was cooking or a new language. Keep on doing that. Just because you’re home, doesn’t mean you have to leave all your experiences behind. Your experiences have shaped you, and you should hold on to them and use them to spur you on rather than ‘letting go and moving on’ with life.
4) Remember the lessons
Perhaps this is the most important of all. Don’t let exchange just become a fading memory. Consider what you’ve learnt from the places you’ve visited and the people you have spoken to and think about how you can be a better person. Your friends and family back home may tell you to move on and stop living in the past. But the past is what shapes who we become in the future, and I would encourage you to write down and reflect on the experiences you’ve had during exchange and use that to spur you on.
Maybe you feel like your home country isn’t where you feel happy. That’s fine! But don’t go into a new country with idealistic expectations. When stress and work come in, it may not really be so different. But in the meantime, EXPLORE!! Plan your next travel adventure and keep learning and growing.
Of course, I’m writing this in Montreal… I’m not even home yet haha, so I can’t even promise that this will work. But on my part, I’ll be doing my best to keep to these tips, and hopefully it makes coming home a better experience. Until then, I’m just going to enjoy Montreal for my last few days 🙂