Updated on June 13, 2015
Returning to the Land of Where Things Make Sense
A few weeks before I was heading home from being in Ecuador for a semester (almost 5 months) I ran into a friend that was researching reverse culture shock. She had been in Quito for a year and was somewhat worried about heading back to the states and her former life, and after being back for a summer I understand somewhat why.
I really can’t say if I have been experiencing reverse culture shock or if my friend is, there is a website that describes the symptoms and how to best deal with them from The Center for Global Education: http://www.studentsabroad.com/reentrycultureshock.html
As a part of my own readjustment to everyday USA life, I have a list of things that were either new or odd to me about the U.S. after my return from Ecuador.
1. People could understand me. I know this isn’t the same for many countries as English is on a path to dominate the world, but in Ecuador at least, I could generally pick out who understands English and who does not. Many of the wealthy upper-class Ecuadorians understood it as well as most whites you saw. Also, any Ecuadorians that knew any English generally tried to speak it with you-so if you didn’t think they knew it beforehand, that point was made clear very quickly.
So when I came back, I was unprepared for people to be able to overhear what I was saying so easily. For instance, I went with my brothers to a baseball practice and saw some kid walking by that strode in such an arrogant way that I immediately commented” Wow, that kid thinks he’s the coolest ever” without even thinking of the possibility of him understanding me. Oops. He looked right my way and kept walking.
2. There aren’t as many exciting places to go. While I was in Ecuador, almost every weekend was a new adventure. I went off to the beach for planned trips for the weekend, went on unplanned trips to small towns to meet shamans, climbed mountains and even went to Peru. This became normal life for five months. So it was quite a shock when I arrived back in the boring part of NY where I live.
To remedy this, I have begun a list of places I would like to go and a list of people I want to go see. As soon as I got back to North Carolina, more of a home base now than NY, I went to visit friends I had not gotten to see for the past 5 months, went to visit my boyfriend in Baltimore and in general tried to make NC exciting. Although we do not always recognize the interesting possibilities in our hometowns, it helped me a lot to find new and exciting things to do around home.
3. The people that you got to know intimately while abroad are no longer a part of your everyday life. I believe that because everyone was throw into completely new situations, the friends I made while abroad could be more true than some friends I have at home. This is not a bad thing, but actually something fantastic! It means I now have some of the best and most honest friends I could ever have. The key now is to deal with being separated from them.
I made an effort to keep in contact with the people I got to know best while in Ecuador. An unexpected phone call, a skype date and occasional emails are essential-as well as actually seeing the people that live closest to you. It has helped me tremendously to be able to keep in contact with those people who were my lifelines while abroad-being in contact with them gives me a sense of security and reminds me to strive for the same level of honesty with my friends from home.
Being back in the land of where things make sense is a good thing. It’s been good to readjust and realign my life to be more like what I Want it to be and less like what I think society wants it to be. I feel that many travelers that take the time to be with themselves discover themselves while abroad. They know their truest emotions and desires and while this is great for being abroad, it is even more important to bring back to everyday life at home.