By Matt Simkowitz ’19
Dear study abroad returnees,
First of all, congratulations! You’ve successfully completed one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of your college career: studying abroad! You’ve navigated a culture and destination much different from your own, and have done so with grace. I’m sure you’ve all been briefed substantially on the difficulties of adjusting to your abroad destination, culture shock, etc., but you’ve probably heard less about the difficulties of another important part of studying abroad: The Return.
There are many difficult aspects of returning to Skidmore after an extended period of time away, but one of the most difficult aspects of returning that specifically affects those who are returning from their fall semester abroad is the abrupt return to the notoriously cold and snowy Upstate New York winters. I should know, as I returned from sub-tropical Argentina–where the midsummer weather in December was 90 degrees, sunny, and humid–to Saratoga, where my first weekend back featured sub-zero cold and biting wind that felt even colder to my heat-accustomed body (and mind). That, combined with the short and cloudy days and return to highly challenging coursework, made my transition back to Skidmore more difficult than my transition into life in Buenos Aires.
Luckily, although my experience returning was not easy, it did provide me with much insight into managing such a transition. Likewise, it is my duty as a former spring semester returnee to provide you all with a template for readjustment.
Tip #1: PURCHASE A UV LIGHT LAMP!
This was one of the most helpful things I could have done for myself. I bought a UV lamp as soon as I started feeling like the lack of sunlight was seriously depleting my energy. There’s exists some skepticism surrounding the effectiveness of UV light lamps, but I can say from personal experience that it was a very valuable purchase, and helped immensely with my ability to move forward with my schoolwork during January, February, and March.
Tip #2: BE SOCIAL!
In the wintertime, we all tend to stay inside and forgo a fun night with our friends in favor of a night of Netflix and taquitos under a fluffy duvet. This option feels especially desirable in the aftermath of the social tsunami that is study abroad. However, forgoing social life in the middle of winter is a recipe for discontent and intense nostalgia for your time abroad (which isn’t inherently bad, but can certainly make way for a pervasive sense of disconnect from your life at Skidmore). There are plenty of social life options that can make Saratoga less like the tundra! Events such as Chowderfest, theatre productions, downtown events (if you’re over 21), band shows, comedy and acapella performances, and fun winter-themed parties with friends are all fun attractions that can make winter more bearable!
Tip #3: INVEST IN NEW WINTER CLOTHES, IF YOU CAN!
Oftentimes, being abroad can make you feel like the epitome of cool. You’re a jetsetter lounging on the beaches of Barcelona or strutting the boulevards of Paris or climbing mountains in Nepal or shopping under the bright lights of Tokyo. Understandably, coming back to reality can make you feel just a little less fabulous. But fret not! Personally, I combatted the negative parts of my return to reality by adding a personal flair to my winter wardrobe. Whether it be buying a warm scarf, a colorful knitted hat, or new boots, investing in new clothes can add a sense of excitement and make you feel like you’re on top of the world all over again, while also keeping you safe from the cold!
With all this in mind, I can’t guarantee that the transition will be easy. It may feel incredibly hard at times. But with these tips in mind, you can be sure that your transition will not be nearly as hard as it otherwise would be. GOOD LUCK!