Author’s Note: Yes … reverse culture shock is a very real thing. It’s when you move abroad for studies or work but circumstances make you come back to your base country, and all of a sudden, you feel like a stranger without a home.
If you studied abroad and went back home, you’ll know that it’s possible to feel like a stranger in places you’ve lived all your life.
You’ll understand how confusing it is to spend years building a little world in a hopeless city you entered all alone, only to see everything fit perfectly in 1 carry and 3 big bags, tumbling into the cargo as you say goodbye.
Funny how you can claim to be a nomad who has been travelling the world and seen the most gorgeous sights, but deep inside, you’d prefer to stay back in your dorm room or on campus grounds – because it was the home you built on your own, a world & routine you made for yourself from scratch.
I guess it’s not the leaving that hurts, because you’ve been at more farewells than introductions. And more graduations than orientations. And you’ve learned to make a lifetime worth of memories in just three years – you’ve always known that’s all you’ll have here.
What hurts is the dread of coming back to points in your life you thought you moved on from. And then realizing that those points have moved on from you.
It’s the unease of listening to your “best friend” from school days be excited about things that don’t involve you, and it’s the bitterness that comes from seeing that Mom shifted your old books back to the last drawer to make space for your sibling.
It’s the annoyance that stems from being asked if you remember this part of the city, or the names of people who made it home. And it’s the sudden urge to pretend that you forgot, because you miss being able to start fresh – isn’t that honestly why you chose to move away in the first place?
But still, if you’ve come back and you feel disconnected from people who once understood you, maybe it’s because you’ve changed how you understand relationships, and you’ve changed how you look at people.
You’ve learned to build homes in countries that are at war with yours, and you’ve learned to find families in strangers people told you were our enemies, growing up.
You’ve filled up your calendar with Christmas, Diwali, and Chinese New Year, and you’ve spread the table to celebrate everybody’s happiness as one.
You’ve weaved together passports from every part of this planet, and you can pin a new name to every major city on the map. So you may have lost what you meant to a lot of people, but you’ve gained a bigger meaning that many more would understand.
And maybe that’s just why you feel like a stranger coming back home, because you’ve unknowingly built a new one – with a backyard that’s twelve thousand kilometers wide, but has no roof. Decked with a clear view of the stars … where you truly belong.
P.S: Thank you, Monash Malaysia. You gave me the adventure of a lifetime, and molded me into the human being I’m proud to be today. I’ll miss you & keep visiting when I can. Until next time, love.