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Reverse Culture Shock: Savner Deg, Norge

July 11, 2011

Starby enjoying the comfort of my luggage as I unpack

Dear readers,

This is the final segment of my Up Norge blog. I have now been home for over a month, and I have been immersed once again into American culture. I wanted to take a moment to discuss my reentry experience.

I left Norway on June 2, 2011. Although I felt ready to go back home, nothing prepared me from the surge of emotions that hit me the very second my Boeing 737 took flight from Oslo Gardermoen airport. As I gazed down upon Norway, I immediately felt sadness and a longing to go back. I knew that it would be a long time before I would see that beautiful land again. In my head, I kept repeating “This was the greatest experience of my life…” I stared at the landscape, and reviewed my favorite memories of skiing, hiking, traveling, and all of the small moments in between. After fifteen minutes, I dried my eyes, blinked a few times to clean off my contacts, and set my sights on home.

Nearly a day later, I arrived at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport to meet my parents. After picking up my (damaged) luggage, we commenced the three-hour drive home to Wausau. The air was muggy and warm, and it felt so much staler than the air in Norway (even after being on air planes for 15 hours). Although I had my heart set on a mouthwatering Culver’s butter burger, crinkle cut fries, and a root beer, my parents ended up pulling into a Wendy’s. First meal back in the U.S.? Check. How cliché. Although I was disappointed, I was too tired to care.

When I finally arrived home, my sister and my cat Sully were waiting for me in the living room. I was so relieved to find that Sully remembered me after all. After taking a warm bath and doing a bit of unpacking, I fell asleep in my daybed that has been in my possession since childhood.

Over the next week or so, I indulged in a few foods and luxuries that I could not afford to enjoy in Norway: coffee beverages from Starbucks, meals at restaurants, peanut butter, hummus, and ginger ale. I shared my European chocolate with friends and family, told a few stories, and went to start my full time nannying job just two days after arriving in the United States.

Jumping right back into life in the U.S. was difficult. It felt unfair, and I was disappointed that all of my friends had found work elsewhere while I chose to live at home over the summer to save money on rent and utilities. Also, I felt that my life had changed and that I had been so enriched by my experiences, but no one seemed to want to accommodate these changes. After coming back from Norway, I had to pick up my life where it left off, even though the course of the past five months have altered me drastically in ways that are a challenge to articulate.

I have so many stories about Europe, but most people seem to lose interest after a few minutes.  A professor once told me that studying abroad is the best experience you’ll ever have that no one will want to hear about. And he was right. When I first heard this, I thought that was absurd, but I understand now. Even though people may be interested, they are not likely to want to hear me talk about it for too long. It’s a challenge to choose what stories to share because many people assume I took a five-month vacation abroad. Although my school was not too rigorous, this is still far from the truth. I faced challenges and adversity that I never expected. I have grown as a person, and my study abroad experience has become invaluable to me. I feel more aware, more adventurous, and more alive than I ever have. Also, I feel so far removed from my life pre-Norway since times has not stood still. I have missed everything that my friends and family have done while I was away. This has made socializing and everyday life very challenging.

Although I heard of the reverse culture shock phenomenon, I never truly understood it. I assumed that I would have a difficult time readjusting to the ways of my own culture after having adapted to Norwegian culture. For example, I thought I would be disgusted and shocked by Wal-Mart, fast food, and the low prices of goods. However, this was not the case. Reverse culture shock is more like a grieving process. To experience reverse culture shock is to experience the loss of something extraordinary. Although I will never lose my memories or the experiences I’ve had abroad, I’ve ended the greatest chapter of my life thus far. Each day of mundane reality at my 9-5 job and living at home is a reminder of this loss, and I mourn it greatly. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to my new adventures as a senior in college. I have so many goals and things I would like to do, and I want to share them with you. Thus, I invite you to subscribe to my Wisconsin Gurl Blog (click). I plan on documenting my last year of college and the process of mapping out my life. I hope to make this interesting, and if you’ve enjoyed reading Up Norge, I hope you will also enjoy the next installment of my life blog.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mom permalink
    July 14, 2011 3:40 pm

    I am glad to have you back home, if only for awhile. You can be TOTALLY proud of what you have accomplished this year. And I am proud as well. The courage and desire you have to experience life so different from our own is amazing. Sharing it with all of us was the best. I know that you will return someday. You have shown us again that what you set your sights on, you will accomplish. I wish for you a great senior year at UW Madison! (And, hopefully you won’t mind a couple of visits from your Mom!)

  2. Maja permalink
    July 17, 2011 11:51 pm

    Hi Lisa! I just got home as well and share many of these feelings with you. Thanks for this post. We can hope that what the future holds will be just as amazing as our time in Norway.

  3. Jim McGrath permalink
    July 18, 2011 8:47 pm

    Whether you continue to have great adventures like this is up to you, Lisa. Follow your dreams and don’t get trapped in 40 hour work week – or at least pla great vacations.

    Jeg elsker deg.

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