Like most people around the world, study abroad students were blindsided by the new normal brought on by Coronavirus. With the need to return home, our experiences were cut short with no warning. However, we were given something that no other study abroad students had received before—time to reflect on our experiences in our host cities.
Yes, most students have time to think back to their time in foreign classrooms or their favorite meals in European cafes, but due to the nature of our online schooling, we have ways to stay connected to our peers from abroad and talk about what we miss or maybe didn’t get to do from all over the world. This has shown me that reverse-culture shock is easier to navigate with the people who may be feeling the same things, even if they are far away. Having the time to sit and talk about our memories has allowed us to process them even if they were ended in such a shocking way.
The time we’ve been given, although it may feel like we’re stuck at home, has given us a tool to navigate the hardships that come with returning to the United States. We’re able to have fun conversations with people we met from all parts of the world; we don’t have to worry about facetiming around our time differences since we’re all completing online school. Although we’re not getting to experience new things in new countries, we’re all experiencing the same “new thing” together and sharing how we are all adapting. The sudden end to study abroad has shed a light on the importance of staying in touch with the people who made the experience so special to me.
I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned with my time at home has been to continue to chase the things that excite you. I know it seems strange, especially when it’s pretty hard to chase anything inside, but finding a way to pursue new experiences is what study abroad is all about. Even though it may seem difficult to find those new experiences while your surroundings are the same every day, one of the greatest gifts of study abroad was finding common ground with strangers and fostering new friendships. The great thing about our situation is that those friendships don’t have to end and continuing to chat about what’s going on allows us to make them even more special. Although our shared experience is no longer walking to the beach after class or getting on the next available Ryan Air flight to the country next door, we are all navigating how to make the most of the Covid-19 time together.
Sofia was a Spring 2020 Barcelona student from Kansas State University.