Upon returning to the United States, I came to realize that the host culture which I left had become the societal norm to me. Before leaving, I was told that returning to one’s home country is more of a culture shock than arriving at a foreign country. I was mindful of this remark as I made my voyage back to the United States. Initially, I was a skeptic – how could my home country feel foreign to me? This is where I have spent all of my life, what could possibly be different?
I was correct in a sense; the country I came back to had not changed at all. The people were the same, as well as the social interactions. On the other hand, the perceptions of my country have changed tremendously. This was my culture shock. I had become so used to Australian culture that things that once seemed normal to me couldn’t feel more foreign during this time of reincorporation. I have found myself back in a state of liminality, as I attempt to re-understand my own culture as an outsider looking in.
An example of this is when I visited my friends back at Quinnipiac during the first week of my return. Everyone was so excited to see me and so eager to hear all about my adventures abroad. All seemed normal and great until we decided to go out on a Friday night to Toads. This is the first time my feeling of “culture shock” had kicked in. On the shuttle to Toads, I really began to notice the differences between Americans and Australians. The bus ride was loud and obnoxious – something that I was completely desensitized to prior to my abroad experience. I never realized how heavily abused alcohol was in the states. Also, I never noticed how much Americans rely on social media such as Snapchat in order to “have a good time.” Very few people in Australia use Snapchat simply because they don’t have a need for it. They understand that the time they spend with people face to face is far more important than living through ones phone – always seeking validation from people who couldn’t care less about their life. It wasn’t until now that I noticed how bad the American addiction is with seeking validation.
Returning home. I had the opportunity to share my reincorporation letter with my family. The quote I chose to describe my experience was, “the farther I travel, the closer I am to myself.” In other words, I explained how I found myself while traveling abroad, and how the experience has put me through my own rite of passage. By telling my family this, I was able to spread awareness in order for the outside world to acknowledge my personal transition into adulthood.
Since returning home from studying abroad, my old habits have already changed. I no longer feel the need to check my phone every twenty minutes, nor do I ever use it if at meals with friends and family. Instead I enjoy the time being in their company. I will need to be mindful of my phone use in order to stay away from these old habits. Living abroad has significantly developed by independence skills – I hope I am able to continue this independency while back at home this summer and then when at school.
A quote by Ibn Battuta perfectly describes my experience: “traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” I feel that after this speechless experience, I am able to look back as a storyteller, putting it all into words. This class has given me the opportunity to become a storyteller, sharing my gained knowledge and wisdom with others.