Some things to bring back from your study abroad experience

By Hannah Wheeler, Vrije Universitiet, Netherlands

Going back home always holds challenges. Sometimes it is easy to fall back into old roles and forget about the experiences and developments that you have gone through. Even just going back from university to your home city with your family, it’s easy to slip back into old habits. This was something I was worried about when I thought about going back to Manchester after my year in Amsterdam. I was scared of returning to my default student ways. Not that all the defaults are a bad thing, but also some I had grown out of in my year away. Your environment is a massive impacting factor in how you behave and what you focus on. So naturally, moving countries will affect you. It’s not easy. 

Personally, I’ve found moving back to Manchester more of a culture shock than moving away was. I have also found that I’ve got more anxiety and nerves about being back in Manchester than I had to leave it. To cope with this, I’ve noted that there are some things I really want to hold on to as parts of me and my life, while back. 

A major thing for me is holding onto the intercultural awareness that being an international student exposes you to. Studying abroad means that you meet people from all over the world. These interactions really open you up to the differences and similarities that people from other sociocultural contexts have with you. It gives you more understanding and connection to the world. Don’t go into a bubble of Manchester student life. 

4 people with 7 nationalities and 6 languages between them, sit down for dinner

Time abroad can be intense and goes by in a flash. Along the way, you meet so many incredible characters and make many friends. These friendships, though, will take more work and care to maintain as they are technically long-distance relationships. Don’t take it for granted that your year together is enough to make them last for life. I’ve made some of the closest bonds ever with the people I lived with this past year but I know that I still need to stay connected and involved with them to keep these still young relationships solid. It’s not like school or university where you have multiple years with friends to nurture your relationships. These intense and quick bonds may need more effort to stay healthy. 

Finally, I think it’s important to bring back the drive to explore. Being away for a year only, I was so full of energy and wanted to adventure in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and Europe as a whole. I took advantage of any opportunity and tried to make every day count (within reason of studying and looking after my own health and needs). Now that I am back, I only have one year left in Manchester – the first year that hopefully will be covid free. So I aim to explore Manchester and treat it as a new space with lots of hidden secrets and exciting opportunities. If you find yourself going to interesting nights, joining clubs that you usually wouldn’t, trying new cuisines, exploring nature spots, and checking out museums and galleries in your host country, do the same in manchester. Make the familiar unfamiliar. 

In the grand scheme of things, this is a very brief reflection on things to keep hold of in your life. But I thought I’d share it as they are some of the key things that I am reflecting on and thinking about now that I am back in Manchester and settling into this old but new space.

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