The 5 Stages of Post-Abroad Metamorphosis, Contemplation, and General Tears

Of course post-abroad adjustment can be broken down into pre-determined stages! As you head out on the next great adventure, keep these 5 stages in mind to make re-adjustment smooth sailing:

1. Dazed and Confused

Why is it light out at midnight? Shouldn’t we be eating breakfast right now? No? It’s 4 pm? What? I slept for 14 hours? You don’t say…

So you’ve probably experienced jetlag. You have never experienced the post-abroad apocalypse that will herald your return. Not only are you coming off of 5 months of adventure and mischief, but you just traveled umpteen hours, probably said emotional good-byes and hellos to your families in their respective countries, and – oh, yeah – changed time zones. Even if it’s just one or two time zones, you won’t be operating at full power for at least 2 days or 18 hours of sleep, whichever comes first. Prepare to be a little kooky. There is no better remedy than sleep. And probably whatever food you’ve been massively missing while abroad (For me, it was cheese. Clearly I didn’t go to Europe). You’ve just got to ride it out. Or sleep it out, I guess.

2. Articulation

Did I mention I just spent 5 months in Ecuador? Oh I did. Well did I tell you I climbed a volcano? Oh I did. Well did I show you my slideshow of 436 photos? Oh you already sat through it. Well did you get the highlight commentary? Oh you did. Well when I was in Ecuador…

So I studied abroad in Ecuador.

When you come off of the adventure high, you naturally want to share that with everyone you come in contact with. That’s fine. Your life was pretty cool for a few months and you just experienced something once-in-a-lifetime. Also fine. BUT YOU CANNOT TWIST EVERY CONVERSATION TO MENTION YOUR STUDY ABROAD. THE PEOPLE GET A LITTLE CRANKY.

Sorry to be so emphatic. Of course, it’s going to be a topic of conversation as most people you know want to hear about your trip. You will get really good at the highlight-reel speech. But post-abroad, you will certainly run across one of these chatterbox people, and you will most certainly be aware of every minute detail of their time abroad. You will be talking about Abstract Algebra or the new shampoo you just purchased and SOMEHOW it will connect to an experience in Spain, or traveling in Paris, or hiking the Great Wall in China, etc.

Don’t be that person.

3. Cultural Sensitivity

“Sheesh. Gustavo is, like, so culturally insensitive. I mean, he’s telling me about how he didn’t have running water the whole time he was abroad. Can you believe it? I’m just like; Dude, what can you even be complaining about? I didn’t even have water.”

Shockingly, your experiences make you a more enlightened person to various degrees. Who would have thought. Seeing how non-Americans live will be eye-opening for most people, and this can never be a bad thing, however, upon your return it is tantamount to remember that not everyone – even your friends who have also studied abroad – will have seen, felt, and experienced what you have. Their context is entirely different. Don’t write them off as culturally insensitive jerkwads, realize you too have blind spots. The hardships you experienced abroad are nothing to brag about – use them to inform what actions you take post-abroad.

4. Relativity

What is even the point of this homework stuff? Why do grades even matter? It’s just one person’s subjective viewpoint that is largely not representative of the “real world” anyway!

This stage is crucial, heartbreaking, and almost universal.

There will be thrown books. There will be late assignments. There will be tears. The only solace is that as you are contemplating just giving up on the 50% of your homework you actually complete, every other study abroad returnee is right there with ya. After learning so much – largely outside of a classroom – 16 credit hours worth of class time just seems rather superfluous. Winter quarter can be a dark time.

Remember this as you sit in your café registering for classes while abroad – don’t overload. Simply getting to class on-time, and not Latin American “on-time” (ie: 10 minutes late) will be a struggle.

5. Wanderlust

You’ve gotten a taste and now you’re addicted. To the getting lost and crowded buses. To the daily rain and astounding lack of edible cheese. To the street food out of tiny bags and terrifying traffic. To the solitude. To the language. To the adventure.

This stage doesn’t just end – you get to keep it the rest of your life. From here on out you will be questing for new travels and leaping at every opportunity to dash across the globe. You may have only studied abroad for months, but the effects last years.

To all those leaving in a matter of weeks or months – best of luck! All of the returnees – those of us in “stage 5” – would love to go with you.

– Maddie Doering, MSID Ecuador 2014

Maddie Doering

Advertisements

My Top 4 Tips

I’m back, sadly. I’ve made it through The Study Abroad Experience in more or less one piece and, of course, infinitely wiser. Reflecting on my time abroad and all I wish I would have known preparing for the trip of a lifetime, I’ve come up with a few tips and tricks to keep in mind as you set out on your grand adventure:

  • Travel clinics are your friend!
    Seriously. Your regular doctor is great, but travel clinics are specifically equipped with all the vaccines and info you  need before heading abroad that most physicians won’t know off the top of their head. For instance, Ecuador doesn’t require any special vaccine and malaria medication is more or less optional, but if you travel outside of Ecuador and want to return – for instance, after a quick long weekend jaunt to Machu Picchu in Peru – it requires proof of the Yellow Fever vaccine to re-cross the border. It’s usually quicker and travel clinics keep the more offbeat vaccines regularly instock. Each county should have their own, so find the one closest to you!
  • Chips for all!
    Traveling to Latin America I just rather assumed my cell phone wouldn’t work except as a rather shiny music player. I’d rather forgotten that you can replace the chip in your phone so it functions on a pay-as-you-go basis in whatever country. I would have much rather used my regular phone I’m used to rather than the junky little thing I bought to contact my Ecuadorian friends and family.
  • Smiley face for FaceTime
    Not everyone has Apple products, but if you do, utilize the FaceTime! For whatever reason, FaceTime works so much better than Skype in Latin America. I got kicked off regardless, but maybe 1 time a call with FaceTime as opposed to 10 times a call with Skype.
  • Reading, rollerblading, and music
    Just a few of my hobbies. While you are trying to pack as much stuff into that suitcase and still keep it under the 50lb limit, don’t forget to throw in whatever it is you like to do in your free time. When you’re missing home or everything around you seems strange, having that consistent activity will keep your world from seeming too overwhelming. For me, it was my bracelet making kit. And then I was able to make bracelets for all my new friends and family, win-win. So pack those books, musical instruments, sketchbooks, knitting needles, bike gear – whatever!

Now I’m sure everyone has their own list of priorities, but for me these were the top 4. Health, communication, and free time. But regardless, you’ll figure it out when you get there. So you don’t have a raincoat or closed-toed shoes and it rains everyday. You’ll buy a raincoat. Or use a snazzy trash bag. So go with the flow and boldly go, adventurers! Have the time of your life.

IMG_0347

– Madeline Doering, DUSA Blogger

Let’s Go Home

I put off packing. Again.
The interminable blue hulk I casually drag behind me as my suitcase stood empty for days awaiting either all my clothing or Abril and Sol, my host hermanitas. Actually, Sol in my backpack, Abril, Pao and Alex – the rest of my host family – in the suitcase. ‘Tis perfect.

Am I leaving? I’ve heard mutterings of this thing they call “the final thesis presentation” and “going home”, but I’m sure that doesn’t apply to me. I have family here.

I’ve had a lot of time to think lately – as I sit and grapple with financial Spanish lingo at my internship, as I panic yet still don’t write my monografia, as I tune out during conversations because its 1am and my maximum Spanish time is 18  hours and how many more hours can we possibly hang out in Cielito Lindo, the bar/restaurant my host family owns – and I’ve most certainly come a long way.

I find myself being very happy as I walk to work or smooch Abril – probably because of all the vitamin D I’ve been getting 😉 I do have my own personal little Sol.

My own personal little Sol and Abril
My own personal little Sol and Abril

There’s something very beautiful about finding normalcy abroad. About accidentally saying “let’s go home” instead of “back to the house”. About a squeaky little voice calling for her Maddie-line to “ven aqui!”. I want very much to go home – but I don’t want to go home.

After living here for 5 months, I don’t really see how people can travel places for only two, three weeks at a time. I don’t see how I’ll be able to do it in the future. There’s no time to build a routine, find the fastest way home because you’ve literally walked every possible route, find your ice cream shop where they start only charging you 75cents instead of the very steep 80 “because you’re so sweet”. Where is the living?

It hasn’t even been 4 full weeks, but I’ve again found a home while surviving abroad. When you think about how little time 1 1/2 months is in the grand scheme (my total time here in Ibarra) – barely over half a DU quarter – but somehow it has been enough. My name has been changed to Maddie-line Munoz (because I’m part of the family),

Abril insists I greet “Papito Alex” when he calls on the phone at night (while my host mom dies laughing in the background), and I’ve figured out how to make my bed in 21 seconds flat.

I haven’t jumped off any more bridges lately, but I’d prefer these weeks of princess dolls, slobbery kisses, and endless Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. This weird little pentagonal room with the crisp white door, dark purple curtains, and my Crayola Halloween sheets will be missed. Most likely because of the two little girls who barge in demanding to snuggle and view Scooby Doo (well one demands, the other just shouts HOLA!).

The goodbyes are fast approaching. It’s nice when they ask me when I next have vacation or make plans for the 20th of June when all the city dances the night away with the indigenous communities for Inti Rymi and we just have to go. And when they ask me that, I don’t smile and nod because it’s polite. I plot and I plan and I try to think of some way to trick DU into sending me back “to study”. I think I can swing it. As my host mom says though, “It’s decided, you’re not leaving. We haven’t made pie yet.” Well, in that case.

I never expected to find a home while abroad, but it is this part of the experience I will forever treasure the most. This goodbye was the hardest I’ve ever experience – harder even than when I originally left my US family and friends back in August because this time there’s no ticket with a set date and time telling me when, to the minute, I will arrive home.

I never expected to have a reason to return. And now that I do, I am so grateful Ecuador chose me and I found the third half of my family. Voy a extrañarte, Ecuador.

The Muñoz Family 2014
The Muñoz Family 2014

– Madeline Doering – DUSA Blogger
December, 2014

How to Get Sick: A User’s Guide

The stomach of steel is a myth.

Sorry to break it to ya, especially you “tough as nails” folk, but ABROAD WILL TAKE YOU DOWN. It’s really a question of when rather than if.

But I – No.  I haven’t – No.  I’m tougher – Still no.

They lay it right out there during orientation – you will get sick. It’s far better to accept it, acknowledge it, and move on. Chalk it up to just another study abroad experience. Strange food, strange cooking, stress – your immune system just ain’t up for it for 4 months. So take heed of a few tips from those of us who have already lost the battle:


Give it a week before you go all “Bizarre Foods Study Abroad Edition”

I’m all for being adventurous – it’s study abroad after all – but let your system become accustomed a bit before you eat the worms.

No matter what country you travel to, there’s going to be something awesome and ethnic and cultural to eat. It might be cuy (guinea pig), it might be alpaca, it might be real live octopus, but chances are day two isn’t going to be the only time or the best time to try it. And farther down the line, it might not make you want to throw up, either. 😉

Aimee Schneider, MSID Ecuador 2014, considers her worm carefully before taking the first bite. There are all types of learning while abroad - even learning to eat worms!
The audacious Aimee Schneider, MSID Ecuador 2014, considers her worm carefully before taking the first bite. There are all types of learning while abroad – even learning to eat worms
The daring Emma Kaplan, MSID Ecuador 2014, tosses one back - one worm that is - while studying in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
The daring Emma Kaplan, MSID Ecuador 2014, tosses one back – one worm that is – while studying in the Ecuadorian Amazon


Gettin’ Some Air

 While we come from a mile high, that sneaky altitude can still get ya. Some cities – such as Quito in Ecuador and La Paz in Bolivia – lie high up in the mountains (in the case of Quito and La Paz, in the Andes) where the altitude is almost double that of Denver. It certainly is an advantage to come from Rocky Mountain High where the sky is clear and the air is thin, but be prepared. My new friend Brenna had a horrible stomach ache the entire first week we were in Quito, which she attributed to nerves and new food. After taking every type of medication she had brought with her and several our host families had recommended, it finally occurred to her that going from Minnesota land of the flat to Quito at over 9,000 ft might have had some affect. After taking her altitude meds and drinking a lake full of water, no sign of the stomach ache since.

Take that 14ers! 9000ft weren't enough for us, we needed even higher altitude. Volcano Pichincha in Quito, Ecuador. (Maddie Doering, Aimee Schneider, Emma Kaplan - MSID Ecuador 2014)
Take that 14ers! 9000ft weren’t enough for us, we needed even higher altitude. Volcano Pichincha in Quito, Ecuador. (Maddie Doering, Aimee Schneider, Emma Kaplan – MSID Ecuador 2014)
Brenna and myself climbing Cotopaxi
Brenna and myself climbing Cotopaxi

The Thirst for Adventure

 Water. To drink or not to drink, that is the question.

In this case, do as the locals do. If they’re not drinking tap water, odds are you probably shouldn’t be either. If you’re really worried, however, or just don’t want to constantly be buying bottles of water, definitely look into safe water techniques. Chlorine tablets, iodine drops, and even UV lights that kill bacteria in water are all great options.

Look how refreshing that water looks! - MSID Ecuador 2014
Look how refreshing that water looks! – MSID Ecuador 2014

Going Native

Getting sick is all part of the experience, as is getting better. So as you want to heave your cookies, just think about what a wonderful experience this is to discover more about the local culture. When I got sick, my host mom made more tea than I thought I could possibly contain. I practically floated for two days. But I got to see how she made it all directly from the actual plant (no tea bags here!) and I did end up feeling better. I also got to experience “limpio de huevo” – the egg cleaning – technique to get rid of all my bad energy. She essentially rubbed an egg all over me then cracked it in water. Where the white floated to the surface was where my “energia negativa” was contained. So really, I’m just holistically a more well person right now.

egg doctor


So friends. Get sick and get some culture. Hopefully these tips will help you so that while you may lose the battle, you can win the war. Happy travels!

-Madeline Doering – DUSA Blogger


Where. Are. The Kleenexes?!

I, the illustrious and often confused Madeline Doering, have been under the Southern Skies now for over a month – a month and one week, to be exact – and by golly it’s all starting to come together. While living with a host family that speaks 0 English has been prodigious para mis habilidades lingüísticas, in a world of Spanish, I find myself talking to myself in increasingly frequent doses – and whether that’s good or weird (it’s weird, I  know), at least I understand what I’m saying – sometimes with a pretty snazzy Spanish accent even. Here are a few choice mutterings:

  • Where. Are. The Kleenexes?!

    Seriously, does no one blow their nose ever down here?
    I’ve noticed that where we typically compost and recycle as a luxury, and while widespread in Colorado, much of the United States remains criminally in the dark about the basic necessities regarding earth-friendliness and la Pachamama.don't pick flowers Here in Ecuador the Green Campaign is much stronger and much more of a habit – out of necessity rather than choice. There is always an Organicó next to the Basura, signs stating “sólo necesita un poco!” in the bathrooms (where sometimes you must supply your own paper), and no such thing as air conditioning or central heat. giant leaf 2So maybe it should come as no shock that something so wasteful as kleenex quite literally doesn’t exist – I’ve looked in stores, there isn’t any. But, I HAVEN’T SEEN ANYONE EVEN SNEEZE. What is the secret to this madness? And how can I too learn the ways?

 

 

 

 

  • I am not a cat, nor will I be eating one as a hamburger!

    Hamburgesas del Gato. WHAT? I don’t know what you all do here in Costaguatamexi-Ecuador, but back in America we do not eat cats.
    When we passed the Hamburguesas del Gato while going to “the bank” (I’ve learned “the bank” actually translates to 3+ hours of errands, one does not simply go to the bank) and I told my host sister Rosita that in no uncertain terms would I be eating a cat, she descended into a pile of giggles. No Maddie, gatos are people with blue or green eyes, sheesh. It’s basically hamburgers in the style of Europeans/Americans. Ridiculous. Hey, you people eat cuy (guinea pigs) down here, cats are just one step up. Meow.

  • Lets kiss then hug then kiss again. Then let’s do it again in 10 minutes when I leave.

    Saludos son muy importante around here. A mere, “What’s up?” or, the epitome of cool – the nod – will not suffice. I think when he saw my reaction, my Professor, Ismael, took pity and let me know it wasn’t a greeting requirement to kiss everyone, but hey, I’m lucky it’s not the double kiss in Spain or the – uck – triple kiss in France. ARMS LENGTH DISTANCE AT ALL TIMES, PEOPLE. Gracias.
    At this point, I’ve kissed and been kissed by more people than I care to ever admit. Ever.

  • No, I do not want mayonnaise on my carrots or my salad or my peas, why thank you. Actually, just keep the peas entirely.

    One does not simply put mayonnaise on everything! Especially vegetables! (yes potato salad, blah, blah, yuck) They make a big deal about everything being super natural around here – far fresher and more natural than in los Estados Unidos, por supuesto – but isn’t that slightly ruined WHEN YOU PUT GLOBS OF SLOPPY, GLOOPY MAYONNAISE ON TOP??????????????????? And peas. I actually just don’t like peas. I’m sure they’re very fresh and natural, though.

    El Mercado
    El Mercado

    photo 3 - Copy (2)

  • I’m going to eat it on one of these floors imminently, I just know it.

    Every surface is smooth and shiny – they really know their right angles down here. But for those of us that can, at times, trip over their own feet, this can portend imminent catastrophe. Skirt over head. It’s going to happen.

  • Am I the only person here who doesn’t know anything about soccer?

    Yes? Alrighty then.

  • In the event of a Godzilla attack, please proceed calmly and orderly to the nearest park.
    It will never find me in the park! - Actually, it's an artist's depiction of an earthquake, and the park is a safe place in the city.
    It will never find me in the park! – Actually, it’s an artist’s depiction of an earthquake, and the park is a safe place in the city.


    It’s the harbinger of DOOOOOOOOOOOM!
    Yeah, I don’t know.

Well. Perhaps talking to myself is not entirely healthy for my sanity. But I’m amused.

What it all boils down to, mis chicos, is it’s always an adventure and there is always something to laugh at if you just look. Maybe in the darkest times you’ll have to squint your eyes a bit – wipe away a few tears even – but there’s a silver lining, there really is. Buen viaje mis amigos!

colorful selfie

– Madeline Doering, DUSA Blogger

Charlie’s blog: Quito, Ecuador

Charlie is participating on the MSID Ecuador program, and his blog is pure eye candy.  He’s got images of everything from incredible rain forests (rafting, plants, animals, etc.) to ice-climbing.

A journey by train with his host family.
A journey by train with his host family.

Check out more of his beautiful photos:  http://on-the-equator.tumblr.com/