Returning from a year or semester abroad can be triumphant: flush with the success of making new friends, learning a language, and briefly becoming part of a different culture, you feel eager to face the next challenge ahead. Equally, however, it can be met with dread, like the reluctant return from a yearlong holiday.
Studying abroad offers a paradisal break from the collegiate grind – from which you are suddenly and irrevocably expulsed. But what happens when the life you forged abroad is better than the one you left behind? Follow our guide to dealing with post-Erasmus angst, and remember the importance of the things you can take home with you.
Surround yourself with relics from life abroad: be it photographs, souvenirs, even bus ticket stubs. Once Erasmus is over, mundane objects can momentarily transport you back to a more exotic place and time. Don’t be overly reflective though: avoid mournfully watching slideshows of your year abroad photos on repeat in the library, for example.
Equally, indulge in all the things you missed whilst being away. Explore your home city through the eyes of a tourist: rediscover your old favourite haunts and unearth sparkling new places to visit.
The year abroad can merge into an endless, exuberant blur of partying, travelling, and introductions – with the occasional study break. Diaries can be dull, but write things down before you forget them. Just a few lines can provide a brief snapshot of a particular time and its associated feelings before they fade.
Socialise. Capitalise on the social skills and multicultural sensitivity you’ve honed. It may feel poignant to leave behind a city-full of friends, knowing you will never share the same particular zeitgeist again. After your dazzling collection of multi-national friends, those who remained to diligently study in Edinburgh may appear slightly subdued in comparison. Your old Edi pals may not be as unusual as ‘Hans’ or ‘Hedvig’ were, yet they will welcome you back with open arms. Just try not to bore them with endless ‘When I was abroad . . .’ anecdotes.
As soon as you land, living alone in a foreign country poses an assault course of difficulties to overcome: from navigating language and cultural barriers, to gaining new friends.
Returning home may seem like a step backwards, so continue to challenge yourself, perhaps by joining a new society. Considering the plethora of societies on offer at the University of Edinburgh, there will likely be one relating to your host country. Academically, on your return to fourth year, when achieving 40 per cent is no longer quite so admissible, your dissertation will definitely keep you occupied.
Stay connected with the culture you became, however briefly, part of. Whether this is through its film, literature, sport, or cuisine, pursue the idiosyncrasy of your host country that made you first fall in love with it. Alternatively, you can practise any language skills, advanced or minimal, you acquired by attending the University’s Tandem Language Café.
Most importantly, remain in contact with those you shared the year abroad experience with: it’s impossible to Skype everyone, but drop friends an occasional line or a quick snap. This applies to both platonic and romantic relations – if you didn’t have a trans-national romance, did you even go on a year abroad?
Finally, use your connections! Visiting people you met abroad comes with the advantages of free accommodation and that precious local knowledge. Glimpsing aspects of ordinary life, which is normally obscured from tourists’ views, is the purpose of a year abroad, and the lasting international friendships it forges is what keeps Erasmus and its 30-year-old spirit alive.