You did it! You made it through your exchange, and though some thought you wouldn’t survive, you did. How are you feeling? Did you have the best time ever? Was it a bit tough coming home? Or did you feel like it was another chapter in your life that has come to an end?
You may have cried and not wanted to leave, or you might still be travelling trying to enjoy the last weeks of summer before uni starts. You’re always on the go when you’re on exchange so it’s a strange feeling coming home, when you’re “home” has been somewhere else for the longest time. If you’re feeling a bit displaced, don’t worry that’s normal. Let me tell you about the aftermath of when I came home. Disclaimer – you’re different to the ‘I just went travelling around Europe’ crowd.
Last year I came home at the end of June, still very attached to my friends and the life I had in England. For me it was an escape from the drama, reality and responsibility I had here in Sydney, which made leaving the UK and exchange all the more difficult.
I felt lost when I came home. The friends I left in Sydney didn’t seem to understand my sadness because they hadn’t gone through it, though bless them they did try. I felt like I didn’t or couldn’t have as much fun with my friends here as I did with my UK crowd. More so, I felt my home friends’ lives had moved on without me and I was trying to play catch up.
I became very isolated and negative which really isn’t in my personality. I would stress over the tiniest details of my life and crumble under the added pressure of trying to secure a summer internship which manifested into anger and self-resentment as to why I wasn’t organised enough to apply for them whilst I was overseas. All I wanted to do was go back and continuing living a care free life that wasn’t the one I had back home.
I remember Skyping my American friend who had done a semester abroad and left halfway through my year abroad. I remember her telling me she felt the same, and that these were symptoms of ‘Post-exchange (or study abroad) depression’. It sounds made up, but it’s a real thing. Those who know me personally know that I had one of the worst cases of post-exchange depression and it lasted a couple of months. There were many factors why it was so bad for me, namely one particular person and this was the case for a few of my friends too.
So, if you are feeling this way, and you’re hung up on exchange what can you do about it? How can you get yourself out of this rut and readjust back home? Here’s my advice:
- Talk to someone: Friends, family, or maybe a professional: If the friends you left at home before exchange don’t seem to understand you, talk to those who have been abroad, keep sharing the memories. Maybe if I talked to a professional earlier on, I might have been able to get better more quickly.
- Keep yourself busy: join a society or a sports team or two or three, get more involved in uni! Socialise! Get a part-time job, dive into that internship! Make some new friends! Keep your mind off of those negative feelings by limiting the time you have to yourself to ponder about the ‘what ifs’.
- Keep in touch with your exchange squad: maybe at first, you’ll talk daily but it’s better if it’s weekly, fortnightly or monthly. If you’re lucky and they live close to you that’s perfect, they’ll know exactly how you feel because they’ve been with you though all of it. But if you do have that person, and you’re thinking ‘what if I stayed’ I would advise not talking to them for a while, it will be hard and you might not want to but trust me, it’s the best thing for you and if you’re going through this you need to be a little selfish. Remember, it’s ok to miss people, and the best part about that is you know you’ll see them again!
- And if you don’t get that summer internship like you wanted, you can try to get a grad role without one! It’s possible or you could delay your graduation and try again next year– it’s very normal.
And if you ever want to talk to someone about it, don’t hesitate to reach out to me or any of us. As a society, every single one of this team has been on exchange so we understand it all. And trust me, it does get better ☺
Peace and love,