The dreaded post-year abroad blues.

Returning to the UK after a year abroad in Hong Kong was one of the most difficult goodbyes.

It all began with language barriers, culture shock, and homesickness but ended with lasting memories and lifelong friendships. Whilst studying abroad I got involved in a number of cultural activities, taking up kung fu and learning the traditional sport of dragon dance. With friends I would travel frequently around Asia, taking advantage of my student finance I ended up in Hanoi, Vietnam for my birthday. I fell in love with the culture and the people. Where else can I go to find similar street food stalls to those that lined the streets of Mong Kok? Where else can I be in the city centre one moment, and forty minutes later on a remote island, all for the price of a £1.50 ferry ride? and When will I see my non-UK study abroad friends again!?

When I arrived back in the UK, there was more than the weight of two overpacked suitcases dragging me down. It felt weird to be leaving a place I had called home for the past year, I even (however cringey it may be) got my first tattoo the day before I left to commemorate my year. Being back in London was nice at first, I was staying at my friends, and I got involved with some volunteering straightaway. Aside from how Sainsbury’s has changed their meal deal, nothing was significantly different. But then after volunteering had finished it felt as though I was living in limbo, waiting for something to happen. Conversations with people who I hadn’t seen in a year always started with the question: so how was your year abroad? After a while it felt as though I was repeating a script about another life. What I realised about coming home is that everything looks the same, smells the same, and feels the same, the only thing that has changed is yourself. I soon got bored and a bit down trying to transition back to my old life and getting back into a routine. I guess this is what people term reverse culture shock.

Whatever it is, here are some tips for settling back in and general coping mechanisms:

  • Plan ahead. Make sure you have things planned so that you’re not going home to a 4-month plan-free summer.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about your time away, keep in contact with the friends you made abroad.
  • Explore new places in your hometown or university city. Find a new love for it and stop comparing it to places you’ve just come from.
  • Acknowledge that you’re a different person! If you feel different from how you felt before your year away, that’s normal.

Also published on Medium.