Tips for Life After Study Abroad

Look, I’m not afraid to admit it. I studied abroad. OK? The utter stigma that study abroad students face upon uttering those words is heartbreaking, to be frank. I just don’t understand why not everyone is born with the financial means to make such an excursion, the combination of a biological and environmentally-induced work ethic and intelligence to do well enough in school to secure scholarship funds and program acceptances, an academic program that has enough breathing room in one’s schedule and easy credit transfer to justify studying abroad, parents who are totally cool with shipping their precious child off to a foreign country for months at a time, a high school that offered AP or dual-credit courses to free up one’s schedule, the previously trained or inherent independence to be capable and willing to make such a trip, and programs or mentors that suit one’s interests in a way that can make such travel have academic merit. Really, anyone can study abroad, and I don’t understand why everyone hasn’t already.

Of course, I know I’m not alone. There are others like me at this university that have left the warm bosom / painful furnace of our motherland to enter the sweet embrace / inferior lodging under another country’s flag. (Look, I really want this article to appeal to everyone, so if you’re a cynical U.S. hater or a diehard patriotic nationalist supreme that runs into a hurricane to save a cheap piece of fabric you can get at Target, just pick whichever phrases apply). And I’m sure you’re having trouble adjusting to returning to the banality of UTD life after your extravagant adventures abroad. I am here to guide you in your return so that your PSAD (Post Study Abroad Depression) (I was the first one to come up with this) does not overwhelm you and to provide tips to maximize your time back telling literally everyone about how great your experience was without them hating you.

If you don’t tell at least 40 strangers that you studied abroad within 48 hours of your return, the world will end.

Look, I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out. I returned on a Saturday night. The next Monday a little past noon, I walked outside to very strange lighting. Walking across campus, I heard some mysterious talk about some foreign celestial body blocking the sun’s rays. Hearing the word “foreign,” I knew for sure it must have been directly tied to my return from study abroad. Upon arriving at my 1:00 class, the professor asked each of us in turn what we did during the summer. I immediately informed the 41-person class of each country that I visited the past summer. After class, once I stepped outside, all had returned to normal. I don’t want the world to end, so everyone, please follow this rule. It is absolutely crucial.

Treat your daily life like study abroad.

Coming back from the wild adventures of study abroad into the daily routine of UTD life can be difficult. But do not fret! There is just as much to discover and explore in the DFW area as there is in Barcelona, Shanghai, Dubai, or HAHAHAHAHAHA sorry I can’t finish that sentence, I’m just trying to make you feel better.

Speaking the few non-English words you picked up at random times is totally cool and fun, and people will love you for it.

This one is pretty self-explanatory.

There is always time to fit in a study abroad story.

Studying abroad creates so many wonderful, vivid memories. So many, in fact, that you could probably make a connection to one of your experiences from almost anything, and therefore could enrich your friends’ lives by telling them about it. Man, that piece of concrete chipped off the sidewalk really reminds you of that chipped off piece of the Roman Colosseum you found on the ground. That water you’re drinking really makes you wish you were drinking wine by the Seine instead. See? It’s easy!

Every dollar you spent in a foreign country is money that did not flow into your local economy.

Studying abroad may be fun and all, but every dollar / rupee / riyal / peso / dirham / renminbi / pound / euro / yen / etc. that you spent in a foreign country is money that will not support your local small businesses or support your state’s budget through sales tax. Really makes you think, huh? Economics is wild.

Study abroad changed your life. Why not show it?

You’re a new person. A changed person. The you that left the U.S.A. is not the you that returned. Continuing to live your old life is an insult to your abroad experiences. The only way to reflect this is to start a whole new life. Change your name, never speak to your friends again, cut ties with your family, change your major, transfer universities, take up entirely new hobbies, dye your hair, join a cult, I don’t care, just do something to prove to the world that you are now well-traveled.

Share your favorite pieces of culture from the places you traveled.

Keeping all of the rich culture you experienced to yourself is the height of selfishness. America is a melting pot, and you should be doing your part to add to it. Did you like driving on the left side of the road? Do it here. Wasn’t that socialized medicine from when you cut your leg trying to backflip into a (really cool and secluded you’ll-have-to-tell-them-about-it-later) lake simply the best? Pay extra taxes and just assume the collection agencies will understand and stop calling you. Preferred the EU time zone? Live your life as if you’re still on it. The possibilities are endless.

Never forget your time abroad.

When the sun falls on another boring UTDay, and you longingly look past the construction to lands yet unexplored, take time every night to remember the good times you had. Hand your best photos out to freshmen in the dorms. Go eat McDonald’s to remember that time you ate McDonald’s abroad. E-mail administration until they add your travel blog as a link on the UTD News Center. And spend some time planning your next trip so that you can start this lovely process all over again.