“Reverse Culture Shock: the unexpected difficulty in readjusting to the culture and values of one’s home country, now that the previously familiar has become unfamiliar.” Well my friends, this symptom is very much alive and well once you come back from a study abroad exchange semester. But the personal changes I have experienced, the friends that I have made and the places I have seen are well worth this “shock”. Living in another country has taught me so many valuable lessons that I know will be an asset to any company I become a part of. Deciphering English from foreigners taught me patience and understanding. It also increased a desire in me to learn a new language. Traveling to new countries, either with friends or on my own taught me independence and adaptability. Often new countries had very different transportation systems that we had to navigate, languages we had to learn simple phrases in, currency we had to convert and customs we had to learn. Each country is unique and has its own identity and that itself was a fun yet challenging thing to discover upon first arriving. For example, in Prague beer is cheaper than water. Austrians are just crazy and love their Spritzer and outdoor activities. In Spain, going to brunch is just as important as going to church and they will stay out until sunrise. The Greek are very proud to be Greek, Peta bread is life and cats are everywhere!! Creative problem solving when things went astray was also another important skill I acquired. Going to a place and just going with the flow and making the most of each day was something I strived to do. Being able to be flexible and adapt to different plans is imperative in a fast changing business environment. There were also opportunities each day to live out some of A&M’s core values like leadership, respect and selfless service. I was initially surprised by how many homeless people I saw around Vienna. Austria has open borders and so not a day would go by that you didn’t see refugees asking for money. My friends and I started getting into the habit of taking our leftover food from restaurants to-go and giving it to homeless people on the way home or leaving sandwiches for people on the subways.
I’ve been home for a few months now and thankfully social media and email have helped me keep in touch with my friends. It is sad to be apart but exciting to know that we have the opportunity to travel anywhere for a reunion in the near future. I am already looking into going back next summer and working abroad at some point in my life. I have so much more insight now on the rest of the world and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to expand on that knowledge.
Until next time Vienna, danke schön!