Reaping the Rewards of Studying Abroad at Home

By EMMA SEIWELL, Assistant Features Editor

Regardless of its impermanence, it can be hard coming to terms with a semester abroad coming to an end. Returning home can feel like an abrupt disconnect from the people you met, your host country’s cultural idiosyncrasies and the general lifestyle you adopted while abroad. However, the conclusion to your experience doesn’t have to be as definite as it might initially seem. There are many ways to integrate the positive aspects of your life abroad alongside those at home, especially in New York.

As someone who just returned from a semester in Rome, I talk regularly with my Italian roommate. While in Italy, I had the chance to meet her family, including her nephew. He is learning English and I’m learning Italian, so we’ve made plans to send each other postcards. 

Celia Patterson, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’21, who studied at Sogang University in Korea this past fall, said, “I’m trying to stay connected to Korea and my experience there by staying in touch with friends that I made there and finding my favorite Korean foods in New York.”

With thousands of restaurants in NYC, there are surely some serving the traditional fare of your host country. Or consider cooking a favorite recipe you found while abroad to share a piece of your experience with friends or family.

If you’re interested in maintaining your language skills, there are plenty of older establishments in NYC where owners and staff speak foreign languages. Visiting some of these places is a great chance to continue speaking in your language of study with others. There are also dozens of arthouse theaters throughout the city that show foreign films.

Bessie Rubinstein, FCLC 20, studied at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague in the spring of 2019. She said, “Prague fit my sensibilities so well, almost too well. I miss it all the time — I pine for the strangeness of their cinema, the cold, grey rivers and the massive, sculpted babies patiently climbing up the Žižkov Television Tower. Watching my favorite Czech films curbs the pining.”

Rin Kuemerle, FCLC ’21, studied at the University of Pretoria through Fordham’s Ubuntu Program. She maintains a connection to South Africa by staying up to date on their politics online. She said, “When I was there in the spring of 2019, I witnessed the reelection of Cyril Ramaphosa, so I’ve been curious to see how that plays out for the country as it continues to strengthen economically.” She added that she regularly sees the group of Fordham students with whom she went abroad. They continue having conversations about social justice in South Africa at home.

A continued connection with one’s host country can also manifest itself in more abstract ways. Often referred to as reverse culture shock, the inclination to reconsider one’s values, priorities and overall perceptions of the United States is natural when returning home.

Lareina Sun, Gabelli School of Business at Lincoln Center ’21, studied at Paris College of Art this past semester. “I really appreciated the Parisian lifestyle where people would just take an entire afternoon to sip on coffee or have a picnic along the river and just have hours long conversations with their friends,” she said. “I never really got to do that in New York since everything moves so fast and people schedule their days by minutes. After Paris, I realized that life cannot be planned or rushed, and I’ve therefore learned to just go with  the flow and let things happen to me.”

Your experience doesn’t have to end the moment you get on the plane home. Embracing favored aspects of your life abroad at home allows a continued connection that furthers the personal growth you gain overall.