When students return from study abroad trips, they quickly realize that a lot has changed yet are often expected to hit the ground running when they return. Two of the biggest challenges these students face, however, is how to adapt to life back at Taylor and how to stay in contact with friends made abroad.
Senior Makenna Holz studied abroad her sophomore year in Ecuador. She greatly enjoyed her experience, but noted that she had trouble readjusting to Taylor life when she returned.
“Acclimating back to life at Taylor was probably the most difficult part of the whole trip,” Holz said. “I did not know how to work through processing the trip.”
Chip Bii, director of local and global outreach at Taylor World Outreach, said this problem is common and the most important thing is to be able to share your story well. If this can be mastered, reacclimating to Taylor will become much easier.
To overcome this, Bii suggests that it is best to find a common time to share with people about your trip. This could be in your residence hall or with a smaller group of friends. It is important to note that everyone processes their trips differently — for some adjusting back to Taylor might seem like a linear process, but others emotions can go back and forth.
Bii describes the sharing of experiences as two-way traffic — it is important for travelers to share, but the friend who wants to learn more about their experience also plays a critical role. Bii said it is important to be proactive rather than passive when talking to people about their trip. Avoid asking quick questions about the trip as you pass your friend in the hall — be intentional about what questions you are asking, along with when you are asking them and where.
Senior Olivia Chamberlain studied abroad in Spain and has tried to keep in contact with people she met overseas.
“I message them through Whatsapp on occasion,” Chamberlain said. “However, if I want to stay in contact, I am the one who usually has to reach out, but it is worth it in order to stay in contact with the Spaniards that I met. I have also been able to stay in contact with some of the other American students that I met in my program. I have been able to meet up with several of them since coming back to the states and even showed one friend around Taylor!”
Bii said his advice for staying in contact with friends was to utilize technology — find a common medium for communication and set realistic expectations. Bii said if you don’t do this, you will probably talk a lot at first but then the conversations will die off.
Scheduling a time once a month to check in allows for a consistent relationship. Due to time differences communication can sometimes be difficult, so it might require you to wake up early or stay up late once a month to stay in touch. Bii added this kind of conversation is often more meaningful as it is planned out and purposeful.
It is important to remember, whether you are considering studying abroad or are just getting back, to enjoy and cherish your experience. Senior Brendan Wallace said his study abroad experience was incredible, and gave a piece of advice for students looking to study abroad in the future.
“Take advantage of every minute you get while you're abroad,” Wallace said. “This is quite literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — being able to learn abroad — and you will never exactly replicate this experience again!”