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Slice of Life: Post-exchange depression

by Jacob Carey March 26, 2019
Slice of Life: Post-exchange depression

Studying abroad changed how I viewed the comforts of home

There is a multitude of reasons as to why someone would not sign up for a study abroad program: financial stability, course availability, or maybe the fear of homesickness. For those who have been studied abroad, however, they know very well that reverse culture shock is arguably the worst part of it all.

In 2017, Frances Carruthers published an article in The Guardian titled “My reverse culture shock: returning from a year abroad is tough.” Carruthers spoke about her feelings of detachment upon returning to her home in London after an exchange in Canada and attributed her feelings to two things: “I had idealised home in my mind, and I’d expected everything to remain exactly the same while I was gone.”

Following my term abroad in San Francisco in the fall of 2016, I felt like I was coming back a new and revitalized person. Having established new friendships, made fond memories, lived on my own, and rocked a bleach blonde hairdo, I was excited to return with the same good vibes that kept me so happy across continent.

“The hardest part was going from a fast-paced lifestyle, where every week and every experience was novel and exciting, back to the dull weekly routines I had left behind,” said Julia Saragosa, a Concordia student who studied in the Netherlands in 2017.

While Carruthers and I agree that coming home is the hardest part, we differ in our expectations of how things will be upon returning home. While she was sad to see everything had changed, I was most disappointed to come back home and see everything remained the same.

To my dismay, everything back home seemed stagnant, as if time had completely frozen in my absence. The constant buzz and excitement that took over my life during a semester abroad was met with the same lifestyle one may hope to leave behind when applying for exchange.

“The hardest part was going from a fast-paced lifestyle, where every week and every experience was novel and exciting, back to the dull weekly routines I had left behind,” said Julia Saragosa, a Concordia student who studied in the Netherlands in 2017.

Our sentiments are surely not isolated cases. A Google search for “post-exchange depression” brings up about 70 million results including articles on how to deal with it. Post-exchange depression can happen for the same reasons that one could develop a travel bug, as the recurring thrill of being somewhere new and doing something new comes to an abrupt end where everything seems old.

The upside to reverse culture shock is that it all ends eventually. As time passes, the memories of exchange all fade into one. The faces become less familiar and home starts to feel like home once again. Once the thrill and excitement dies down, you realize that maybe the true comfort of home lies in the fact that nothing ever changes.

Feature graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee

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