Tuesday, May 24, 2016

favorite black boots

Goodbye, favorite black boots.

I have officially been back state side for two full days, and it feels quite strange. In a way it feels like nothing has changed. That the life I had been living has been a mere dream and everything is back to normal. I know that that is not the case. I think that feeling stems from coming back to a place that you are so used to. I’ve lived in my hometown, Oskaloosa, Iowa, for almost the entirety of my life. It makes sense that I feel comfortable here. It’s what I’ve known the longest.

Coming to Italy was a hard adjustment. You are given little video seminars on culture shock and how it feels, but honestly, I don’t think any of us took it seriously. We’re going to be living in Italy, how could it feel anything but great? We were all in for a surprise.

I am a Communications major and one of the classes I took overseas was Intercultural Communication. In this class we talked a lot about the wave of culture shock. The first stage is honeymoon, where everything feels great and you are absolutely in love with your new life. Then comes the shock. Feelings of anxiety creep in and you isolate yourself from the culture you’re immersed in. This is the stage that I want to focus on.

Hannah looking out a window in Italy

Ciao for now. 

When this stage hit me, I was honestly so confused and a bit sad. Everybody had been telling me that this was going to be the best time of my life, so I just couldn’t understand why I was feeling these things. What was wrong with me? Was I wasting this amazing experience? Am I not cut out to study abroad? These thoughts would constantly cycle through my head.

As we discussed the wave in class, I soon realized that I was not alone. Every single person in my class had been feeling the anxiety and sadness, and they too were wondering why. This made me feel immensely better because I realized that I was not alone.

When people return home from their study abroad experience, they are in the fourth stage of the wave. The stage where they finally feel at home and are adjusted. So when they share with others how their experience went, it’s easy to leave out the negative feelings they felt during that second stage. That’s why you often don’t hear that they felt anxious and weren’t sure if they were where they belong. All you hear is what an amazing time they had abroad. When I share my experience, I want to make sure I am honest with the people who are about to embark on this journey. Let them know that culture shock is a very real thing and it’s okay to not feel 100% happy all the time, that they won’t be alone in these feelings.

Now that I am back in the states, it is time to adjust again. As of now I am in the honeymoon phase. I am loving seeing all my friends and family, eating all the food I’ve missed so much and just relaxing. I know the shock stage is just around the corner and soon the anxiety of not knowing my place will soon step in. but it’s okay. I’ll be ready for it. Going to Italy has truly been one of the best experiences of my life. I have grown in ways I did not even know I still needed to grow in. I got to explore Europe, see and try new amazing things and made friendships that will last a lifetime. My one advice to anyone is to travel abroad. It will open your mind in ways that you didn’t know possible. I thank everyone who encouraged me to embark on this journey. Ciao for now. – Hannah 

*Hannah Grahek is a communications studies major with a certificate in fundraising and philanthropy communication at the University of Iowa. The junior, originally from Oskaloosa, Iowa, will be spending her semester on the API program in Florence, Italy.

Student blog entries posted to this International Accents page may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UI Study Abroad and International Programs.  The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.