When I was researching colleges to attend, John Brown University initially caught my eye because of its many study abroad options, especially the semester in Ireland opportunity. At the time, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to study, but I knew I wanted to travel. During the spring semester of my freshman year, I signed up for the program, bought my plane ticket and prepared for the adventure of a lifetime.
At the end of my three months in Belfast, I was ready to come home. I missed my family, my friends and the comfortable atmosphere at JBU. I enjoyed my trip—it was one of the most rewarding experiences in my college life—but I struggled when I returned home. It’s funny how, when we first arrived at Lakeside Manor, professors warned that we might experience homesickness and culture shock, but for me, it was the opposite. I was wholly unprepared for my semester after returning from Ireland.
Part of the problem was my naïve belief that, somehow, things wouldn’t change much while I was away, but boy was I wrong. I came back to school where I didn’t recognize hundreds of faces. I moved onto a hall with more than 30 strangers. My best friends had made several new friends, and I didn’t fit into their world anymore (at least, that’s how I felt). And, to top off my feelings of loneliness, my Ireland team did not remain as close as we had been in the fall. With the addition of upper-level classes in my major, applying for internships, family stress and other events, I felt overwhelmed, lost and alone.
I felt like no one else could understand my confusion. I had just spent three months in another country I had always dreamed of visiting, so why should I be so unhappy? Meanwhile, my friends who had not gone to Ireland could not understand my feelings, and even those who did go with me did not express remorse or sadness. It was several months later when I found out that another girl who went on the same trip felt similarly. She told me how strange and disconcerting it had been to reintegrate with friend groups at JBU and how she wished there had been someone to warn her about the difficulties of returning home.
After that conversation — and after other talks with students who had studied abroad for a semester — I realized that there was a need on campus. While not all students who studied abroad had trouble coming home, there were enough who did. I think it would be beneficial to students to have a sort of support group to help them readjust to life at JBU. Knowing that there are others who can relate to similar problems can be a great help.
I encourage students who relate to this struggle to readjust after a semester abroad to find others who share your experiences. Feel free to contact me, as I’m still processing my semester abroad and my time readjusting to life at home and at JBU.
Galloway is a junior majoring in communication. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org