Your year abroad has likely been the best year of your life so far, with so many new experiences under your belt, as well as lifelong friends made, I almost guarantee you’re returning home a better version of yourself. You will have lost count of the valuable things you’ve learnt, the crazy things you’ve seen and of course the embarrassing mistakes you’ve made! This reflective moment is practically the definition of mixed emotions, so if you’re feeling frazzled, try to separate the feelings and tackle them one by one:
In the last few weeks of your year abroad, the realisation will hit that you’re actually going home for good. You probably haven’t seen your friends and family for a long time, and you’ve been missing home comforts like food, television and driving. Even if you weren’t actively missing these things, being reminded of them and knowing they’re almost within your reach as each day goes by will get you super excited. Picturing your family waiting for you at airport arrivals will trigger butterflies in your stomach and a big grin to spread across your face. Your friends and colleagues will wonder why you seem in such good spirits as you’ll be subconsciously walking with a spring in your step! There’s truth in Dorothy’s magical words, there’s no place like home.
In stark contrast to the excited anticipation of going home, a sadness will also dawn on you. The fact that you’re leaving the country that’s been your home for almost a year, without knowing if or when you’ll ever return, is an upsetting reality to face. You’re leaving behind all the amazing memories you’ve made; the incredible people you’ve met; the establishments where you’ve worked or studied that have supported you for so long. It may have taken you a while to settle in, but you’ve now grown a fond affection for the foreign town that’s welcomed you into its community and it truly does break your heart a little to leave. Although metaphorically you’re taking so many intangible things home with you, abandoning the physical aspects of your year abroad is still pretty tough. As you wait for your flight home, half of you will be wishing for that cancelled notification to appear on the board, meaning you can prolong your experience for just a little longer.
Whilst you’re battling between the excitement of seeing your loved ones again and the pain of accepting your year abroad is actually over, you may find they cancel one another out and you become numb to the situation. Especially when leaving day arrives and the long, tedious process of travelling begins, it’s easy to succumb to that feeling of indifference whilst you robotically go through the airport motions you’ve become so accustomed to. The airport itself is that in between space where you’ve already dealt with the emotion of parting from your year-long home but the emotion of landing on home soil still doesn’t seem real. You become as emotionless as your lifeless suitcase, you may as well have checked yourself into the hold for the journey home.
It’s no surprise that you’re going to be overcome with joy the minute you catch sight of your loved ones eagerly awaiting your arrival. The physical contact that’s been missing over numerous video calls is almost enough to bring a tear of happiness to your eye. Plus, everyone is offering to take your luggage which is a huge relief! For the first few days, you’ll be showered with love and affection as everyone tries to make up for lost time. Cosying up in your own bed will make you so content you’ll be beaming as you sleep and as you wolf down your first Sunday Roast, the sheer delight will be quite apparent to those around you. You’ll be enjoying everyone’s company so much that you’ll temporarily forget why you were so reluctant to come home.
With happiness comes reassurance. The familiarity of everything you associate with home won’t have changed as much as you may think. The sadness you felt not long ago gradually fades away as you remember why you love being at home. As you reflect on your experience abroad, you realise just how beneficial it was, how much you’ve gained and grown as a person, and this reflection gives you the reassurance you need to feel satisfied with your year abroad. In a sense, you’re closing a chapter but at the same time, the door will always be open for you to restart the journey and pick up where you left off. You’ll be forever grateful you had such a life-changing opportunity.
Once you feel reassured about coming home, you’ll begin to feel inspired by the year you’ve lived and the things you’ve achieved. You’re bound to feel some sort of drive, whether this be career wise, socially or culturally. You may find that the work or study you’ve been doing has given you clarity as to your career move, maybe you’ve confirmed what you don’t want to do, or discovered a potential career to pursue. You’ve probably found that whilst you’ve been away, you’ve made a diverse set of friendships and your confidence in social situations has soared. Take advantage of this and put yourself out there at home, try new things and socialise with people you wouldn’t have considered you’d get on with before! Perhaps there’s a particular cultural aspect of the country you were living in that you’d like to introduce at home, if you preferred their lifestyle then why not replicate it here? And no doubt you’ve been inspired to continue travelling and discovering other cultures! After your year abroad you should feel as if you could conquer the world – the sky is your limit. So, go ahead and live the life you want to live.