Adiós to Costa Rica

Amanda Arroyo is a student at California Lutheran University and is an ISA Classmates Connecting Cultures  blogger corresponding with the Study Abroad Center at Cal Lutheran. Amanda is currently studying abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica on a Fall 4 program.

Our entire ISA Study Abroad group before our goodbye dinner.
Our entire ISA Study Abroad group before our goodbye dinner.

It’s that time. Your semester abroad has finished up and now you are left with nothing to do but pack. Your life abroad is coming to an end and you have to go back home to a life that WAS familiar but now it seems abnormal. Well let me tell you that you are going to be going through even more emotions than I’m sure you’re already feeling.

You’ll start to wonder if you did everything you could have.
You’ll wonder if the friends you’ve made abroad will remain your friends in the US.
You’ll wonder if you will be able to keep your friends in the US.
You’ll realize the changes that you’ve made in yourself.
You’ll realize that your family abroad is now your second family.

But let me be the first to tell you that it’s okay; those are all normal feelings to have at this stage. You’ve gone through the ups and downs of adjusting to the culture in your host country but now be ready to go through the ups and downs of coming back to the US.

Me and my roommate (and our pet dog) in the park just hanging out on a beautiful day.
Me and my roommate (and our pet dog) in the park just hanging out on a beautiful day.

The bonds you have made with the people in your host country are going to be some of the strongest bonds. They have become part of your second family. But more importantly, your roommate (if you are lucky enough to have one) will become like your sister or brother. I can say that my roommate was the best part of my study abroad experience. I don’t think I can say that enough but it is true. She has become one of my best friends and I couldn’t have asked for anyone better. We have gone through so much together and we were lucky enough to be a lot alike. We went through every emotion together and I couldn’t thank her enough for being my rock. We explored the city, laughed together, complained together and even struggled together. But I can say that I’m happy to have someone so amazing to be in contact with when I get back to the States because I know she will be going through the same thing, or something similar.

So by now you’re probably wondering what these emotions I’m talking about are going to be. How are you going to feel when you get back to the US? I can’t tell you for sure but I can say that in talking to other students who have already gone abroad, it won’t be very far off.

First, you’ll probably experience what people call the honeymoon stage (like when you first get to your host country). Everything is going to be great. You’ll get to enjoy your favorite foods, you’ll see your family and friends, visit your favorite restaurants, etc. Nothing could be better than being home and in your comfort zone.

But now your comfort zone is bigger and you have to compensate for it.

Which is where you may experience what some call Anti-Americanism. You’ll more or less hate Americans. The life that you lived in your host country was completely different from the life you lived in the US and its going to be even more different when you get back and realize it. You will start to compare your values, what you complain about, what you want to do in your free time. Everything will be different.

Which is when you will start to miss your host country. You’ll want to be back in the life that you got used to living for the last several months. Doing the things that you used to do on a daily basis with the people that you spent all of your time with. Traveling all over the country to visit places of interest and eating at the local food places. All of those things become memories that you will cherish for the rest of your life but something that you have to bring to the life you live in the US.

But it gets better.

Once you get past those three stages, it gets better. Everyone is different so it takes different amounts of time for each person. It could take weeks or months and maybe even longer. But once you are able to assimilate back to the US by incorporating your life abroad with your life in the US everyone becomes normal. Your life will be changed but it will be for the better. You will be happier and thank God that you were given the opportunity to study abroad. It’ll be worth it once you get used to everything again.

Happy study abroad and return to the US!

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