By: Tatu Meagher, Simon Fraser University, winner of the Fall 2022 BC Study Abroad: Stories from Abroad Scholarship

Study Abroad Destination: Japan

In the first few weeks of returning to my home country, I came to understand why it is said that returning is always harder than leaving. Living day-to-day can become more difficult: adapting to a new (yet familiar) environment might affect ability for mental adjustment (e.g., mood regulation or understanding identity), interpersonal communication (e.g., home relationships or old friendships), and even physical adjustment (jet lag can be really horrible as we know!).

Study abroad is a wonderful opportunity for an individual to develop their own person. The strides we make in personal development as international students are unmatched in comparison to those we make back home. For a lot of international students returning home, we might describe our return as an event of the world growing smaller or as if we have become altered puzzle pieces that no longer fit in the picture. Many new parts of ourselves (mannerisms, behaviours, worldviews, etc.,) that we have developed and come to love are no longer relevant in our home environments. In order to adjust back into old, familiar social contexts, we have to learn how to navigate a world wherein we previously lived for the second time and as a new person. Sometimes, we also have to sacrifice these little things we used to love and make small, uncomfortable cultural adjustments (in my case for example, moving back to a place where people speak loudly on trains!).

On another note, it might be useful to look at this phenomenon from a stance of growth and resilience. To illustrate, having developed a person that has multicultural experience and worldview can be an opportunity to be bright and unique in a more homogenous cultural context. While respectful of relevant cultural norms, returning home is an opportunity to work in solidifying and grounding the self you have created abroad through uncomfortable experiences in a place where you might no longer not feel every part of you belongs.

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