The first international event I attended this semester was the “You’re Okla-home” event for returning OU study abroad participants. The event included dinner and conversations with others about our experiences abroad, as well as our experiences upon returning home. I was really excited about this event, because I knew quite a few people who studied abroad last semester/year, and was eager to swap stories and share tips for things like reverse culture shock.
I spent the evening mostly conversing with students who had studied abroad in Germany, with whom I shared some very similar experiences, such as our shared language and cultures, our newfound adoration of public transportation, and the amazing friendships we forged with people from around the world. These conversations made me feel continually blessed about studying abroad in Graz, a peaceful city that was just the right size. Even though my friends who studied in Germany had incredible semesters, they had certain experiences, such as drunken violence, that I never witnessed in Graz. Although I’m sure things like that happen in Graz, I am also sure that it does not happen very often, simply due to the relatively smaller population and lack of overcrowding.
I also got the opportunity to speak extensively with a fellow GEF who spend the entirety of last year in South Korea. She told me all about the culture of South Korea, and even though Asia hasn’t really been on my radar in the past, I’m now determined to go as soon as time and money warrant a trip (The question becomes, where in Asia??). Speaking with her made me wish even more that I had gotten to spend a year in Graz, but alas, my expected graduation date could not wait for another semester.
Unfortunately, none of my other friends from Graz could attend the event, but that was okay, as we had already taken time to decompress with each other.
I think this event was very important for returning study abroad students, because coming back to OU after being abroad is a challenge, certainly for those who studied long-term, such as for the duration of a semester or a whole year. Obviously, I still miss Graz each and every day, and I know that feeling will never fully go away. However, when I first returned home, I experienced intense feelings of culture shock. My idea of home, and my home itself, had shifted from Oklahoma to my lovely city in Austria. I had also changed, and the change had occurred in my new home, where I had adapted to the way of life.
When I got home, I began to reject a lot of things that are present in daily American culture. For example, something that really got me was simply how much open S P A C E we have here. I had been living in a very dense city, wherein one could feasibly walk or take public transportation to their desired location, and reach that destination in a few short minutes. I felt like here in America, and especially Oklahoma, we had an unnecessary amount of open space. Why did we need to spread everything out so far? I used to love driving, but when I got home it seemed like an annoying hassle. In Graz, one can go to the city center and get basically everything they need, just by walking a few minutes (or even less) to the next store. Here, everything was spread out for what seemed like no reason, except for the fact that Americans just like things to be big and spread out. Moving around my hometown like a chore, and I *hated* it.
While I never thought I would get over the little things about Oklahoma that I had a newfound distaste for upon my return, I eventually re-adapted to the norms here. This re-adaptation was something I greatly enjoyed discussing with my fellow study abroad participants. All in all, the “Okla-home” event was a success in my book.