Coming back from you study abroad trip, it’s often difficult to find similarities between Waco and exciting foreign locations like Paris and Argentina. Especially upon re-entering the United States, students returning from a study abroad trip are stereotyped by their tendency to endlessly talk about their host country. Students who have recently studied abroad love to compare everything from pharmacies to street signs, usually announcing that the Waco version is inferior. While this behavior can come off as annoying to those who didn’t have the same study abroad experience as you, it’s important to stay connected to your host country after returning to the States.
Study abroad experiences are unique to each individual. Even students who participate in the same program may walk away with an entirely different understanding of their experience. Traveling, especially living in foreign countries for long periods of time, helps you expand your worldview, often resulting in some shift in your personal identity. This creates a bond between Baylor students and the countries they visit in their study abroad programs. Overtime, however, daily routines in Waco can begin to overshadow those moments of self-discovery and cultural immersion. Your study abroad home is a part of you, and it’s vital that you stay connected to that aspect of your identity even after your plane lands back in the United States.
One of the easiest ways to maintain a relationship with your host country is through people. Keep in touch with your host family through email, WhatsApp and even traditional snail mail. This ensures a connection between your foreign home and your life at Baylor. If you attended a university while abroad, keep in contact with the professors from your host country. Send them an email with an interesting article you found connecting their class to your life in the United States. These professors offer a diverse aspect to your education, and keeping in contact with them reinforces that element of your learning career even after you leave. Most importantly, stay connected with the friends you made in your program. While some of your friends from home may not want to hear all your stories about getting lost in a Madrid, Spain subway station, eating the best meal of your life in Mexico or wandering the streets of Copenhagen, Denmark in the middle of the night, the friends that traveled with you would love to relive those unforgettable moments. Get together with the friends from your study abroad program regularly and revisit the memories you share.
Besides the people you meet, study abroad trips impact us through culture. Spanish tapas, Japanese sushi and Italian pasta are more than just dishes, they are the embodiment of culture. While there may not be authentic restaurants serving up your favorite foreign food, Pinterest is full of recipes for that hard-to-find cuisine. Have a party with your friends where you serve up some dishes from your host country.
You can also stay connected through media from your study abroad home. Watch movies directed by filmmakers from your study abroad location. Listen to music from artists in the language you used to hear around you all the time in your host country. Most importantly, keep up-to-date on news from that foreign place you called home.
If you haven’t studied abroad yet, keep in mind the importance of staying connected with your host country after returning home to the United States. Get the phone numbers and emails of the people you meet. Make note of the names of your favorite foods. Ask locals for advice on movies and music that embody that country’s culture and style. While abroad, you can also save photos in Snapchat memories or Timehop to be reminded of your adventures later on.
While you may not be from London or Budapest, Hungary, those places are still home. Even when you’re not physically present there, you carry the memories, relationships and culture with you long after you leave.