Remember that time you visited a new city every weekend? That time you walked up to complete strangers on a weekly-basis and started random conversations? Or that time you once ate gizzard or frog legs and somehow were totally okay with it?
No, you hadn’t found the secret to an instant confidence boost; you were studying abroad.
Despite the wonderment in these bolder days, you’ve probably noticed how this magical feeling seemed to disappear as soon as you stepped off the plane and returned to your hometown. As a whole, when we return home from our time away, we tend to fall back into our old ways. Once again we frequent our favorite hangout spots, see the same friends, and get sucked back into our old work and sleep routines.
Now, I don’t mean to say that these familiar bars, neighborhoods and friends are a bad thing—while away we typically missed these people and places the most. Yet, we’re left wondering: where did the passion and excitement go? Where are the day trips, late-night adventures and long, aimless walks though new neighborhoods? I’ve heard friends say they would do anything to go back to life abroad. Why? Do we actually miss living abroad or do we simple miss the person we were and the new things we did while abroad?
If you are home-bound after living abroad, I challenge you to continue your “abroad lifestyle and mindset” in your hometown. We love being home because it feels so comfortable, but it can also be our downfall. Challenge yourself to go on a road trip, meet one new person a week, do something different every weekend, or maybe try a new restaurant once a month. From my personal experience, this takes effort and being proactive, but makes all the difference. Here’s what worked for me when I returned to Seattle after living abroad in France:
Attend a Meetup:
I am a big fan of Meetup.com. You can find hundreds of gatherings for practically anything in your city (hiking, photography, French cooking, gardening, etc.). I joined a French language group and spoke French once a week with 30 strangers. It was great to speak French again and also forced me to meet new people.
Don’t Fear Rejection:
I didn’t know a single person in my city when I went to study abroad. To make connections I began talking to people all the time and asked anyone who seemed nice to grab a coffee. This might seem much scarier at home, but you have to get over it. Arriving back in Seattle I asked so many people to go on friend dates. I never heard back from probably 60% of those people, but that was okay. After a while my perseverance paid off—I ended up meeting two very close friends this way.
When I was in France, things seemed to be happening everyday. Opportunities practically fell into my lap, something that doesn’t seem to really happen while back in school or working. To ensure I continued traveling and exploring, I made a long list of everything nearby I wanted to do. I sometimes invited everyone I knew to join me, and sometimes I just did my exploring alone. What mattered most were the continuous new experiences.
What it comes down to:
You can’t just wait around for things to happen. Go out and do something! Fall in love with your hometown just as you did with your home abroad.
Emily is a marketer by day and Francophile by night. This Seattle-native has traveled the world and has both studied and worked abroad in France. When she’s not blogging, she can be found cycling or eating peanut butter. Visit her blog for more stories, tips and advice about teaching in France