I feel like I blinked and the 2017-2018 academic year was over. It feels like just yesterday I was returning to Spain for my second year of teaching English as a foreign language in a small town north of Madrid. With another year of wonderful experiences, exciting travel, new discoveries, and fond memories under my belt, I’m off to Texas again for a summer at home.
The summer transition is an interesting one. Last year, reverse culture shock slapped me right in the face. I’m not sure we fully realize all the changes we’ve undergone until we return to a place we’ve been away from for awhile. That’s what going home was for me – the realization that I had changed, coupled with the realization that home didn’t feel quite the way I had expected it to.
Having these realizations is important, but it can be a difficult experience. From my time at home last summer, I know that the way for me to tackle it best is to fill my summer with meaningful projects and experiences. Putting my time, energy, and passion into things helps me readjust anywhere, anytime. Here’s how I’ll be doing it this time around:
1) Focus on the Future
While I’m home, I’ll also have my eye on the horizon. Next year, I’ll be returning to Spain to study Spanish and complete some internship work in the field of international education, and there is plenty to prep for that. I’ll also continue researching graduate school programs and planning visits accordingly.
2) Remember to Stay Present, Too
Focusing on the future doesn’t mean trying to live there. While I’m prepping for my next steps, I’ll also stay connected to the here and now by spending time with friends from home, my family, and the places I’ll be during the summer. After all, my time at home is pretty limited these days, and I want to enjoy it.
3) Give Yourself Some Structure
As appealing as a fully relaxed summer at home might sound, I know I’d get about a week in and go stir crazy. I know that, especially for me, structure is really important. I need to have something to put time and energy into consistently. This is why I’ll be working in my small town’s Visitor’s Center for the second summer in a row. My projects are always different and there is always something to do – a perfect fit to help me transition back to being at home.
4) Make Some Exciting Plans
Life abroad is a whirlwind – I travel much more than I would otherwise. Because most things are unfamiliar, I have new experiences more often. One of the challenges of moving home for a summer is that most things are familiar. There is so much comfort in that, but it can also feel like a huge drop-off from what I’m used to. Last summer, I was glad I saved a little time and money to travel. I’m looking forward to a couple of small trips this summer, too. It helps keep things dynamic.
5) Use the Time to Reflect
Going home is a great opportunity to reflect on your past year. What were your biggest accomplishments? How did you grow? What do you want to change moving forward? Returning to your roots gives you the chance to answer these questions and more. Take that insight into whatever your next steps might be. It’s always been easier for me to process things like this from a distance.
However you’ll be spending your summer and whatever changes you might be making in your life moving forward, summer is a great time for transition and change. I’m looking forward to spending my upcoming weeks in Texas and enjoying a bit of home before I go back to Spain for year three!
by Emma Schultz