When I left for college almost a year ago, it never crossed my mind how I would feel when I returned. All I was doing was looking forward, anticipating my new life at Earlham College. Returning home was something I had never prepared myself for, and it has been an overwhelming experience altogether. To me, the biggest shock of coming home wasn’t cultural; it was simply the shock of being home. Initially, I found it hard to adjust to life in the U.S. with the fast pace of life, big cars and meals that could feed an entire family, but all the “adjusting” I had to do when I got to college pales in comparison to that of being home after a long time.
In the movie, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Benjamin said; “It’s a funny thing about coming home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You’ll realize what’s changed is you.” This quote has resonated so much with me because I experienced exactly what Benjamin talked about in the movie. I have felt like home was frozen in a time warp. Even though it is wonderful to be back, it feels very different maybe because I’m now different, but life back home is not. What makes it more frustrating is how when you try to express the feeling to family and friends they simply cannot relate.
It might seem trivial, but one of the most important ways I have dealt with reverse culture shock is to establish a routine, which isn’t as simple as it seems when you’re waiting for all to fall into place. One of the first things I did when I came back was to join a gym and enroll in an art class. My goal was to try and establish a new circle of friends, one that had nothing to do with my previous life in Zimbabwe. Even though we can’t control every aspect of our life, it’s beneficial to manage that which we can.
Written by Kudzai Mushongahande who is a rising sophomore at Earlham College. Kudzai is interning this June-July with the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe as part of the Zimbabwe Career Connect Internship Program.