It isn’t that I didn’t really believe that I wouldn’t be surprised by some of the things I encountered in the US after my term abroad, but I was slightly skeptical of calling it a form of “culture shock.” However, after being in the US now for a full week I would agree that I have experienced a form of culture shock back here in the States.
The strangest thing of all is that it is the little things that are very strange to me. Seeing well nurtured cats and dogs (my pet cats at home look so pampered and fat now), so many people looking at their phones all the time, how fast people walk, and other things like that. And being in such a new and exciting place, then coming back to the place I live everyday has also been a strange, but interesting experience. Things are the same, but I see them a bit differently now that I am back than I did before I left home. Usually these “culture-shock” experiences are not too bad, but it does feel a bit unusual. Every once-in-a-while I get a strange feeling. I can’t really place what the reason for that feeling is, it just is a bit different, confusing, but also sometimes humorous. However, that said, I did have one day when things got a bit hard.
After leaving Samoa, I spent three days staying with friends in Hawaii. On my second afternoon I tried to do a little souvenir shopping for my family in Waikiki. For the fun of it, I thought I would walk through and browse through a popular alternative clothing store. (This was probably a mistake from the beginning, as I had been walking through heavily touristed Waikiki all morning and was already feeling tired.) Instead of finding cool new styles and admiring people’s fashion choices like I normally do, I got frustrated at how connected everyone was to their phone (people bumped into me while texting and didn’t even apologize), how crowded it was, and just in general how materialistic people seemed to be. I soon grew angrier and angrier. At first it was frustration, but the more I stayed in the store (and the more I was surrounded by stimuli), I got angry. I was confused and overwhelmed, and I couldn’t place the reason my frustration and anger. That made me even more angry. By the time I left the store I was in pure rage with no real reason for that feeling. Overall, it was a really unpleasant experience, but I was able to cool down pretty quickly after I returned to my friend’s apartment, and soon I was laughing at how strange it all felt. Aside from this experience however, I haven’t found adjustments to be too bad, just a little different.
Though a few (a VERY few) bits of adjustment have been hard, I am doing well with re-entry. I really like noticing things I wouldn’t necessarily have seen in my own culture and society before leaving. Studying abroad not only teaches you about different cultures, societies and people, but it gives you a new, thought-provoking, and even at times, humorous view of your own, and you also learn a great deal about yourself and your own personality. I highly recommend going abroad as it truly has been (pardon the cliché) a life-changing experience for me!