By far, the worst part of any year abroad is that it can only last a year. It doesn't matter how nervously you anticipated it in the months before you left, when the time comes to go home you wish there was a way you could stay for longer. "Surely it's not been a year already?", you'll say to anyone who'll listen. You'll even delay packing until the last possible moment, as if not putting your clothes into a suitcase will somehow convince your university to let you stay abroad for a bit longer.
Eventually, though, the day will come when it's time to say emotional goodbyes and head home. Sure, it's nice to see your family and return to a more familiar life, but it will take months, maybe even years, to adjust fully. Until that happens, be prepared for pretty much everything to annoy you.
Everything and everyone has changed
It's only been a year but it seems like everyone back home has decided to have a competition to be as different as possible by the time you've returned. Dad's decided to age gracefully by shaving his hair off and going bald, your younger sister now has a boyfriend (how is that OK, you were never allowed to have a boy stay over at her age) and the family cat doesn't seem to remember who you are even more.
Things are even worse in your circle of friends, where a quick-fire round of dumpings and datings has completely altered the relationship dynamics. Even where you live has changed for the worse, replacing your favorite shops and closing your favorite bar. It's practically not your home anymore.
You can no longer live like a tourist
Without a doubt, one of the best parts of a year abroad is having the luxury of treating your home for a year like a tourist. Every weekend becomes a mini-holiday, spent seeing the local sights or taking a magnificent day trip to somewhere nearby. Everything is new and exciting and completely Instagrammable and it's fabulous. Back home, not so much. Now, weekends are boring and the tourists are the ones getting in your way, over-crowding public transport and generally being an all-round nuisance.
You miss all of your year abroad friends...
Yes, there's Skype/WhatsApp/Snapchat/Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/Google+/hand-written letters (just joking, nobody writes letters anymore), but it's not the same as actually being in the same room as all the people you got to know on your year abroad. Every day that passes, you can practically hear your lives drifting further apart and you can't help but panic.
...and you're out of the loop with your friends from home
Having to leave one group of friends behind wouldn't be so hard if your friends from home hadn't all gone and completely changed. You've missed out on a whole year of in-jokes and experiences, which means in every conversation you just have to stay quiet and hope you'll eventually get an opportunity to tell them about the time you went to a techno club while you were in Berlin. Speaking of which...
Nobody wants to hear your year abroad stories
Which is annoying, because they're really good stories. You've spent the last year having completely new experiences and embracing a different culture, but you've got nobody to share it with. Sure, you can tell your parents some of your stories, and they'll listen, but you can't tell them everything. There's some stuff you just don't want them to know. Try and bring up any of your wilder year abroad stories with friends though and they'll either roll their eyes or just stop listening.
You've neglected all the hobbies you picked up while abroad
Living abroad meant embracing a completely new lifestyle and trying lots of new things. Maybe it was yoga or some other new-age form of exercise and meditation. Or perhaps you became an avid photographer, chronicling your new environment. Whatever it was, it's a lot less appealing now you're back home where everything is grey and dull. You can't even get convince your mum to make paella.
Everyone says you dress weirdly now
Personally, you would say your sense of style has merely evolved as a result of being exposed to a different culture. All your friends just think you look odd though.
Your parents won't stop saying how happy they are now you're home
Yes, you can understand they must have found it tough while you were away in a different country, but the way they go on about it you would think you'd spent the last year in a warzone. Wait until you tell them you plan to spend the next summer traveling, they'll be devastated.
You now find a lot of things about your country really weird
Growing up, you didn't notice anything wrong about the place you're from. How could you? It was all you knew. However, now your eyes have been opened to another culture, it's a lot harder to not see the flaws. Everything about your country now seems weird or off-putting. You can't avoid it. From the way people drive their cars and interact with strangers, to the things people drink or watch on television, everything seems quaint, simple and utterly, utterly wrong.
Whenever you're feeling sad, people assume it's because you're missing being abroad
Even if they're right, it's not helpful to have someone go ,"Aww, it must be so tough, missing all the friends you made on your year abroad. Do you reckon you'll actually ever see them again?"
You've still not unpacked
And you never will.
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(Yoga image: Dave Rosenblum (Flickr) Sad pug image: Hannah K (Flickr))