Photo by Matt Benton
“Welcome back to the real world” is something many students hear from colleagues and family when they come back from abroad. The sudden transition back is sometimes more jarring than the original transition to life abroad, and students hit the ground running with career goals and significantly reduced free time. If abroad was a time that permitted head-in-the-clouds dreaming and childlike exploration, the following year can be a sudden, grounding drop. In the wake of that drop, it’s important to keep moving forward. Life abroad changes students’ lives forever, so returners should let it keep changing them.
In Malibu especially, it’s easy to fade back into a complacent lifestyle; suddenly a 45-minute drive seems too daunting a journey, when not long ago an eight-hour train or bus ride was nothing. Coming back to the pre-abroad environment can feel like a step backward toward the person one was before the experience. Making travel goals is an important part of moving forward, reported Bobbi Hitchon for the study abroad program Go Overseas in the 2014 article Dealing with Post Study Abroad Depression. Work to overcome the notion that LA is far away and inaccessible, because even a day trip can allow the opportunity to apply abroad experience to where the student is now.
At the same time, it’s impossible to continue to live life here exactly like it was abroad. There’s no “once in a lifetime” excuse to justify frivolity, hardly any time between the pressures of more difficult classes and career choices, and transportation in LA is not convenient or easy. While travel time was built into the schedules abroad, the commitment to continue to develop what was learned there is the student’s own responsibility. Landed, a series of club convo groups designed to help students readjust and apply abroad experiences to ordinary life, can help with that commitment.
There’s no use fantasizing about the past, but there is also no need to forget about it. A study abroad experience can increase an individual’s education and career opportunities, but more important than that is an increased understanding of the world and the ability to make choices based on that understanding, reported the Institute for the International Education of Students, the largest recent survey of study abroad students, in 2002. LA is at everyone’s disposal, so why not take the time to explore it? It’s a worthwhile investment of time, especially for students who plan to live in the area after college.
Coming back from abroad isn’t a strict return to the “real world.” It isn’t a time to quit exploring or stop seeking adventure. It’s a time to use what was learned abroad to further develop one’s worldview. As a diverse, culturally rich city, LA is the perfect place for that. Students can go to a museum or drive somewhere new; the fact that LA is not abroad should not hinder anyone from satisfying their curiosity. Find out what’s going on in the area on the LA Weekly website‘s event calendar.
Follow Lidia Bayne on Twitter: @lidiabayne