Antonella is one of our Essex students who studied abroad in Mexico in 2021-2022 and is now a Frontrunner in the Essex Abroad team. Coming back from an experience abroad also means to experience a reverse cultural shock and it can be hard to reconnect with personal and academic life. Antonella told us how she faced her return to Essex.

Firstly, did you feel any different after your year abroad?

Definitely. This experience has also helped to get to know myself better. I feel more independent, responsible, and confident than I used to be. I came to bring to light aspects of my personality that I didn’t even know I had before. I challenged myself being away for 9 months straight, but I got to understand my strengths and weaknesses and how to improve as a person.

Have you struggled getting back into your Essex everyday life?

It was tougher than I expected for different aspects.

Academically it was difficult as I started a Master’s course which is more demanding than a BA. Especially regarding assignments, I was no longer used to writing essays but there are different workshops on campus I found useful to improve academic writing skills.

Weather was something else taking a toll on me. I spent a lot of months enjoying sunny days and high temperatures and returning to wear puffer jackets, scarf and gloves has tested my desire to get out of my house.

two students in Mexico on their year studying abroad

What about your personal life/relationships, did something change?

It was also difficult from a social point of view. When I came back, it was weird to reopen to my old friends (not all but surely most of them). At first, I almost felt like a stranger, and I perceived that my experience was considered a vacation and no one could understand what challenges I went through. While you live a year abroad, there are changes on both sides and it took me time to realize it. This could initially create a barrier, but within time, the real bonds you have return.

Moreover, on my return, most of my friends who had graduated from their BA had left. For me it was kind of like starting all over again which at first got me concerned but I then took it as an opportunity to get to know more people. On this regard, I tried to participate in events organised by SU, I entered some societies, I got a job close to campus, I found activities that could help me to fit in and make new acquaintances.

Is there any advice you would like to give to a returning student?

Yes. Based on my experience I definitely recommend giving yourself time.

Returning home implies having expectations based on your past experiences, but the reality is that, during your absence, the country has changed, people have changed, and you have changed. The old life you imagined you’d find no longer exists. But do not make hasty decisions on the wave of emotion (negative or positive ones). Consider this as an opportunity to adapt your new self to a new reality.

At the end of the day, every return is a new beginning.

Advice from Essex Abroad

We’d like to thank Antonella for her very honest and open account of returning after a year abroad. We’d also encourage students in the same position to reach out to others who are returning after a year abroad who might understand how you feel. You’ll be invited to events and mixers to meet other students and also our incoming exchange students so you have the chance to expand your network.

We’d also recommend making the most of any department welcome events as essentially you are almost a new student at Essex again.

Lastly, if you do struggle, make sure you reach out to someone, whether that is Essex Abroad, your department, or the student wellbeing team. Someone is always here to help you reacclimatize.

If you are thinking of a year abroad and would like to know more about Essex Abroad programmes then visit our dedicated webpages.

You can also visit our linktree to register for our upcoming events, sign up for our newsletter and book a one to one call with the team,