Words by Cassie Naes, a CAPA London alumna from the University of Missouri - School of Journalism who studied abroad during spring semester 2014.
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I would like to think all study abroad alums would say that the experience changed them. I can’t imagine how those weeks or months could not make a permanent mark on your life. Returning home for me was an anticlimactic moment. The difficult reality I experienced was that my life changing experience was coming to a halt.
Upon returning home from my four months in London, I found myself being reminded of the city everyday. I became very familiar with what I refer to as “post partum study abroad depression.” I simply felt like I had “outgrown” St. Louis and Columbia, Missouri. I had the travel bug and the urge to see and experience new and bigger cities. There are times I can’t seem to find the right words to describe my desire to try new things, go new places, meet new people, challenge myself and grow as an individual.
All college students have their bad days, and those tend to be the days that the depression surfaces. It is when I am tired of my normal routine or stressed with school or work that I will find myself daydreaming and wishing I were back in London. Looking through my old Instagram posts and seeing where I was last winter or taking a Buzzfeed quiz about “Which European city do you belong in?” will give me major nostalgia.
Photo: Back at Mizzou
You do not have to be home long to realize that your friends are tired of hearing you talk about study abroad. I have gotten the “You don’t like it here anymore?” question numerous times, and I can never come up with a satisfactory answer. Sitting on my couch now, when I was adventuring through Europe months ago is hard to come to terms with. The moments of depression and the “they don’t understand” feelings hit when I feel like I am back where I was before I left even though I have changed. In reality though, there are a ton of people that do understand what I am going through.
I have been home for London for eight months now, and it has been just over a year since I got on my place leaving for Heathrow. The European withdrawals are as strong as ever, but over the past months I have learned about the best ways to cope with those emotions.
1. TALK ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE. Talking about the little moments is very helpful for me. I was lucky to make three best friends on my study abroad trip and we talk about our London experience weekly, if not more than that. It’s wonderful having a group of people who understand and relate to what I left behind. I love looking back and laughing about the hours we sat in a Starbucks using the free Wi-Fi and all the times we got lost on the night buses on a regular basis. Reminiscing about the little moments can easily bring a smile to my face and reminds me how lucky I was to experience study abroad in the first place.
Photo: A night out in London
2. STAY BUSY. Keeping busy is also a great way to counter depression. I distracted myself from being distraught about my one-year anniversary of leaving for London by taking a trip to Hawaii with my friend Sara, who I met on my London trip. I can’t replace or my experience to London, but I can keep my love for travel and seeing new places alive.
Photo: Whale watching in Hawaii after study abroad
3. BE PROACTIVE. Being proactive has also helped with my moments of post study abroad depression. I have no idea when I will be back in London again, and the uncertainty of not knowing if it will be weeks, months, or years until I return to the city I call home is hard. However, my friend Sara and I are being proactive and trying to find a way to spend our senior year spring break in London. Having that flicker of a possibility of returning to the city we call home, keeps us motivated. Also because I graduate this May, I am making it a point to try to get a job with a company that will allow me opportunities to travel.
Photo: A luau in Hawaii
4. BECOME A CAPA AMBASSADOR. Being a CAPA ambassador has also been a proactive decision that I am so happy I made. The satisfaction that comes from talking about my experience to CAPA potentials is great. Letting someone know how four months changed my life and how it can change theirs is rewarding. A student from Mizzou got my internship placement with Pumpkin for the spring semester. When she reached out to me for advice it felt great to be able to help her and answer the questions I had when I was in her position.
Photo: In Paris with friends
Coming home after traveling is harder than leaving, and a rainy day at Mizzou will never compare to a rainy day in London. Post study abroad depression can be overwhelming but you can’t let it drown you. There are thousands of CAPA alums who have felt the same way that you can reach out to. I will always be thankful for the opportunity to work, live and study in London and I will use that experience to grow as an individual and professional for the rest of my life.