After the whirlwind of new experiences that is studying abroad for a few months, a semester, or even a year, many students find returning home to their college in the States to be difficult. After spending my summer in Copenhagen, Denmark where I was constantly meeting new people, pushing my comfort zone, and gaining confidence and independence within a foreign city, coming back to the familiar felt like a bit of a step backwards.
I spent my time in Copenhagen studying the sociology of fashion as well as prostitution and the sex trade in Scandinavia. I threw myself into my studies passionately and the Danish Institute of Study Abroad (DIS) facilitated and encouraged this eagerness with a variety of study tours, field trips, and hands-on learning experiences. I visited the Danish Museum of Art and Design, Christiansborg Palace, and the Red Light District in Amsterdam. I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with incredible people including trend forecasters, fashion designers, and sex workers. The theories and concepts I had been learning about for the past three years at Whitman seemed to come to life in a new way during my time in Copenhagen. After this experience, coming back to the Whitman classroom felt like a drastic change.
Marco Bloom, a senior history major at Whitman, notes a similar contrast in academics between his time in Italy and Whitman: “The most challenging thing about transitioning back to Whitman life has been the academics. In Rome, class sessions were not incredibly informative and most of the learning happened outside of the classroom, on field trips in museums or at ancient archeological sites… as a history major, it was a luxury to study history by going to such notorious historical sights, and it has also been an adjustment to not take weekly field trips to such locations.”
Other parts of the transition back to campus life can present challenges. Many students miss traveling and the connections they made with a different culture and community. Some students expressed the frustration that they can’t adequately and authentically explain their abroad experience or how it has changed who they are to friends back home.
Finding your footing again at your home institution may take a bit of time, but ultimately the community of students and professors at Whitman help to welcome you back and smooth over your transition. Marco articulates that the rigor of his Whitman classes make up for a lack of field trips and make him feel “much more challenged and rewarded” at Whitman than in his classrooms abroad. Similarly, I am learning how to leverage my study abroad experience to become a stronger sociological thinker here at Whitman. Though students often miss the incredible times they had abroad, many continue to use the experience to their advantage after coming home.