Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about returning. I got back from Jordan about seven months ago, but I’m finding now that the return process isn’t something with a clear beginning and end.
So while I’m currently on a different off-campus study program, in this post I would like to talk about the return process that I’ve been through already, as well as look ahead to returning for a second time at the end of this semester.
If you’ve thought about studying abroad you’ve likely seen some version of this graph. It’s meant to provide some rough expectations for what the wave of culture shock might feel like as you leave and then return to your home country.
What the graph doesn’t show is that culture shock is much more unstable and unpredictable. It might trend in a general direction, but you will probably also experience multiple ups and downs in a single day. It also doesn’t have a clear end upon returning home—you might think you’ve successfully managed the reverse culture shock and reintegrated into your home country, but then a new challenge might hit you out of the blue.
Lately, I’ve been missing Jordan a lot. Part of that has to do with the situation in Gaza. I’ve been doing my best to stay up-to-date with the news, and it’s hard to watch everything unfolding from so far away.
It’s also been difficult to engage with Jordanian or Arab culture here. I’ve fallen out of practice in speaking Arabic, and I haven’t been able to find Arab restaurants or stores in Ashland.
You don’t have a home until you leave it and then, when you have left it, you never can go back.Baldwin, James. Giovanni’s Room. Vintage Books, 2013.
So how to deal with feeling homesick for a place that isn’t quite home?
It’s been helpful for me to stay engaged with Jordanian culture in whatever ways possible here. I cooked Jordanian food for my cabin one night and got a little taste of Amman! I’m also trying to keep my Arabic language skills from completely disappearing. I put sticky notes all over my cabin bedroom with the names of furniture in Arabic, and when I have wifi on the weekends I often listen to Arabic music or Al Jazeera news in Arabic to keep my ears used to the language.
There is a fine balance between holding onto the lessons and growth you experienced while abroad, while at the same time not making studying abroad your entire personality. I certainly don’t always succeed in striking the right balance, but I’m grateful for good friends I’ve made here who are willing to put up with me on the days when I feel the need to bring up Jordan a little too frequently.
Back to Hope
Don’t believe our outlines, forget them
and begin from your own words.
As if you are the first to write poetry
or the last poet.Darwish, Mahmoud. “To a Young Poet.” Poetry, March 2010.
The semester is coming to an end, and in just over a month I’ll be back on campus! I’ve definitely struggled with competing feelings about the return process. Thinking about returning as an opportunity to incorporate the new lessons I’ve learned and person I’ve become into who I am back at Hope has been a positive way of thinking ahead.
Maybe I won’t be directing Uber drivers in Arabic or milking goats back at Hope, but I’ve learned skills during my time off campus that will be important when I return. I’ve become more confident and better at placing myself in challenging situations. I’ve learned how to deal with conflict and speak up for myself, but also making sure that I’m considering other people’s perspectives. I’m willing to try new things that I might not be good at. I’m more patient with others and myself.
All of this to say, studying off campus has been incredibly rewarding, and I certainly haven’t stopped learning from it even after returning to the U.S.
Here’s a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge for making it all the way to the end! Thanks for reading!