I’ve been home for a little while now and am definitely adjusting more to being back in my birth-country than I did when I first arrived in Japan. For me, culture shock at this point is inconspicuous-- it’s not some giant wave of astonishment or confusion; it’s the details in everyday lifestyles/routines, the friends I reunite with after months of separation, the atmosphere of even mundane (social) situations… I don’t notice that there’s something off about it until well after the experience is over, or when someone brings it to my attention. Whether it’s my speech patterns, bowing, gestures, or responding in Japanese on accident… The first week back was really tough for me. Not because of jet lag or readjusting to a different diet-- perhaps it was the first (and only) rough twinge of culture shock, but I missed Japan and the friends I made there, keenly.
As Robert Frost said, “the best way out is through.”And so it was. Just because I was 4,801 miles (7,727km) away, didn’t mean I
had would be separated from them. I made sure to keep contact with my friends and host family– most of the time, I’d get to talk with them every day (and skype, on occasion)! I still miss them all very much, but what I feel now is homesick and not isolation. But it’s thanks to culture shock that I’m also more able to step back and analyze my culture from a more global perspective. That said, I’m still in a kind of liminal state: not quite used to Japanese culture (since I’m not living there anymore) and not quite used to American culture (having been away so long)-- but what’s more, I’ve changed a lot while things back home have not. By that, I simply mean most everyone back home is used to, and expects, the pre-Japan Caitlyn. But I’m not the same as I was before, nor are most people after staying in a different culture for a fair amount of time. Regardless of experiences good or bad, study abroad does change you. Actually, I should say, study abroad can affect you greatly-- but as with most things in life, what you put into it largely determines what you get out of it.
I’m still figuring out why and how my experiences in Japan affected me, but of one thing, I’m certain: I am glad and wholeheartedly grateful I could go abroad,
and I sincerely hope you can, too.