The American Experience

06 Study Abroad High Res copy

Surviving School in the United States.

Written by Chloe Hall

Webster University students are given a crash course on how to handle culture shock before studying abroad, but what they aren’t adequately prepared for are the repercussions of returning home.

Bangkok, Thailand After studying for the 2009-2010 academic year at Webster Thailand, international human rights major Kris Parsons spent her summer completing her human rights fieldwork teaching English to children of the Hill tribe. Upon return to the United States, Parsons experienced difficulties adjusting to social interactions and her social identity. She struggled with readjusting to the lack of social interaction surrounding mealtimes in America. “It was especially depressing to eat meals by myself,” Parsons said. “If you’re in Thailand and you eat a meal by yourself, they’ll think something’s wrong with you. One day I called my mom just so I could have someone to talk to while I ate lunch.” Parsons also dealt with readjusting to how society labeled her sexual orientation. Parsons explained that in Thailand someone is either a Tom, a woman who is perceived as a man, or a Dee, a woman who is attracted to Toms. “I felt that their way of looking at it was more accurate to my feelings about myself,” Parsons said.

Leiden, The Netherlands “I was pissed off the second I got off the plane [in America],” Michelle Ocello said. Ocello studied abroad in The Netherlands for the summer term of 2014. Ocello lived abroad for only one-sixth of the time Parsons did, but her expressions of frustration toward adjusting back to American culture were no less. “Coming home and realizing how beautiful Holland was broke my heart. I cried for weeks wanting to go back,” Ocello said. Aside from her depression, Ocello had a hard time readjusting to an American diet. She explained that it was difficult to find fast food that wasn’t a heart attack waiting to happen. In The Netherlands, she often ate at McDonald’s. When she ordered the same food at a McDonald’s in America, she got sick. Ocello noted that she probably would have transferred her home campus to Leiden had she stayed any longer.

London, England Before leaving for London, Brooke Cartwright worked at the Godiva Chocolatier store in The Galleria mall. Her boss promised to hold her job for her until she returned from abroad, but Cartwright decided to make some changes upon her return. “When you come back from [being] abroad, everything about you has changed. I don’t want to be peddling chocolate anymore,” Cartwright said. Not only did she quit her job, but she made changes to her friend group as well. “I kind of did a little housekeeping, not on purpose,” Cartwright said. “But when you’re living abroad for so long, the people that matter the most will keep in contact with you and the ones that don’t…don’t.” She noted missing basic luxuries such as the affordable high fashion department stores, being able to go to the bar and order fish and chips and drinking countless glasses of cider.

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