Thoughts on a Semester of Reading Roth

Everyone at my college is required to take a senior seminar in their major in order to graduate, and mine happened to be a class solely dedicated to reading the texts of Philip Roth. My professor decided to focus on Roth in light of the author unfortunately passing away in May of 2018. We were uniquely positioned, my professor impressed upon us, with the opportunity to look at the whole of an author’s bibliography before the publication of a definitive biography on Roth’s entire life. This sort of limbo period of waiting would allow us to come to our own conclusions about Roth’s bibliography before many critics of other writers did. Of course, there was no way we could possibly get around to reading and discussing all of Roth’s texts in a single semester; rather, my professor selected about a dozen for us to focus on.

It became clear from the very first class that our professor was incredibly enthusiastic and excited about the prospect of such a seminar. The rest of us, however, were not entirely convinced. We were supposed to spend an entire semester reading Roth’s thoughts on Jewish American identity in the latter half of the twentieth century, adultery, breasts, and penises?! (if you’ve read his infamous novel Portnoy’s Complaint, then you surely know what I mean by those last two points.) My classmates and I made a not-so-silent conclusion all on our own: we were going to wholeheartedly dislike this senior seminar.

Our hypothesis seemed to hold strong for a solid few weeks. We criticized how the few women characters were portrayed as mere one-dimensional lovers or mothers in Goodbye Columbus (1959), denounced his blatant, outrageous sexism in Portnoy’s Complaint (1969), and balked at his near sexual fantasy about a fictionalized version of Anne Frank in The Ghost Writer (1979). For a second I thought about simply not finishing The Counterlife (1986) because it saddened me to read about so much flagrant adultery with absolutely no regard for how it impacted wives or families–until we were introduced to the character of Maria. Maria is a wife and mother who chooses to have an affair with the narrator of The Counterlife, a woman who is unexpectedly portrayed as intelligent, independent, and capable of railing against an uneven power dynamic in their affair. She is calm, composed, and the complete opposite of Portnoy’s “Monkey.”

My fellow classmates and I didn’t know what to do with this sudden, uncharacteristically non-sexist portrayal of women from Roth. Was it intentional, a sign of Roth’s own personal growth and maturity? Or was it an outlier, one that we would never see again as we continued on our Rothian journey? Perplexed, we felt ourselves shift gears a bit as we read more and more of Roth’s work.

To my great astonishment, I found that I actually enjoyed myself. While the women characters in Roth’s novels were not always justly portrayed–and we were sure to bring these instances up at every open opportunity–he also wrote several women who we couldn’t help but applaud. There was Drenka in Sabbath’s Theater (1995), Faunia in The Human Stain (2000), Philip’s mother in The Plot Against America (2004)… it was almost as though Roth had just come to the realization that women characters could be written about with just as much complexity and depth as men. Although I would never go so far as to laud Roth for his impeccable portrayal of fictional women. I did become much more willing to engage in dialogue about these characters that did not solely involve my classmates and I frustratedly ranting about how it’s all just breasts and penises in Roth’s eyes.

Roth’s sexist struggles aside, I also found myself enjoying his work from the perspective of narrative structure. Reading so many Roth novels in chronological order helped me see the remarkable strides he made in terms of experimenting with how stories can be told. The conflicting, layered levels of The Counterlife and the alternative version of history depicted in The Plot Against America are far, far departures from the straightforward monologue that is Portnoy’s Complaint. I couldn’t help but admire his impressive attention to detail. One of my classmates researched the specific stamps mentioned in The Plot Against America and lo and behold, Roth’s descriptions perfectly align with the images found. There’s something to be said for a writer that pours this much thought, energy, time, research, and attention into his work, and I was captivated by Roth’s seemingly never-ending ability to do just that.

So where does this leave Roth and I? I must admit that I stand corrected, at least to an extent: I handed in my final senior seminar paper with a greater appreciation for Roth’s works than I ever thought possible months ago. Does he have significant faults as a writer? Absolutely. Yet when read chronologically, one can see that he tried to remedy these flaws over time. And isn’t that the most any of us can ask?

What are your thoughts on Philip Roth and his writing? Have you ever read an author’s works chronologically? Has a class ever changed your perception of a writer? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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Looking Back at 2018

Every year for the past few years (2015, 2016, 2017) I’ve made one of these posts, and each year I’m even more surprised by how much can be packed into just twelve months.

2018 was a whirlwind year. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the first half of it was spent in magical Oxford, England, traveling and studying and making memories that I will always, always fondly look back on with immense gratitude. While the transition back home was far from easy–I missed everyone and everything from my time at Oxford so dearly–it was made a thousand times better thanks to endless support from friends and family. Senior year at Wheaton has turned out to be more exciting, eye-opening, and formative than I ever expected. I found a true sense of belonging in 2018, something I feel as though I had been lacking for a long time.

2018 was also a year of countless firsts. I traveled to so many new places for the first time, from Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna, and Mondsee abroad to new mountains and cities back home in the States. I began traveling by myself more for the first time here, more comfortable with venturing off on my own. I had my first (and thankfully only) abroad allergic reaction and my first allergic reaction to occur at Wheaton, but survived them both and bounced back with the help and kind words of those around me. I finished my first semester as a college senior and have begun to confront the terrifying, exciting fact that this is it. I took the LSAT, applied to law schools, and got accepted to law schools for the first time. Never before have I felt so validated academically, like all of my hard work over the years has finally, finally paid off. It’s an amazing, incredible feeling.

2018 taught me many things, but above all I learned balance. I feel as though I’ve finally found a sort of equilibrium between friends, family, work, school, looking towards the future, reflecting on the past, and finding time to do the things that make me happy. It’s not a perfect balance, but something tells me that’s not truly possible to achieve. For now, I’m content with the balance I’ve struck.

2018 was far from flawless; there were many rough patches and turbulent waters, but somehow it all skyrocketed to an amazing end of the year. I know 2019 will be a year of huge transition for me–graduating college, entering law school, figuring out what my path forward looks like–but I’m happy knowing that 2018 set me up as best it could with unforgettable memories, challenging new experiences, and a better support network of friends and family than I could have ever asked for.

Thanks to everyone who made 2018 so wonderful; I hope I can return the favor in 2019. Happy New Year!!

How was your 2018? Highlights? Things you overcame? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Avoiding Book Burnout as an English Major

Recently someone asked me in a comment how I avoid burning out as an English major–in other words, how do I keep from getting sick of reading? It might sound implausible that a bookworm could get tired of reading, but it definitely happens. When the line between work and play is blurred, it can suddenly feel like what was once a hobby is now homework–because it is. 

For each term at Oxford I had to read about sixteen novels, plus secondary reading during term itself. For my senior seminar at Wheaton right now I have to read about a dozen novels by Philip Roth–and that’s in addition to all the reading for my other English class, history class, and Honors Thesis. Needless to say, studying English literature involves a lot of reading. When you consider the sheer amount of pages being turned, it’s easy to imagine how someone could want to do something else in their sparse free time besides open even more books. 

So how do I avoid burning out? Here’s my advice:

Switch things up.

One of the problems I’ve encountered studying English literature is that the genre I would usually read for fun (classics) is precisely when I have to read for class. Instead, I try reading different genres, particularly children’s or young adult books. Because they’re different enough from what I read for class, my mind isn’t so quick to associate it with doing work.

Listen to audio books.

Listening to audio books is my favorite way to get extra reading in during the semester without feeling like I’m doing more work. I love not having to feel like I’m spending even more time with my eyes glued to a page, as well as the fact that I can get other things done (like laundry, cleaning, etc.) at the same time).

Make it social.

Join a book club. Read the same book as a friend. Be more active in the book blogging community. Sometimes adding a more social aspect to reading helps it feel less like homework and more like something you’re doing in your precious free time.

Take a break.

Sometimes you just have to accept the fact that bookish burnout is unavoidable without taking a bit of a break from reading for fun. Whenever I feel this tiredness coming on, I usually switch to listening to podcasts, knitting, or some other activity instead. Taking a break from reading doesn’t make you a “bad” bookworm in any way–partially because such a category doesn’t exist. There’s no denying that the reading you do for class is still reading, even if it’s not what you would choose to read on your own.

I hope these quick pieces of advice are helpful! Studying English literature can be surprisingly tricky for self-proclaimed bookworms, and it’s nice to know that it’s not just you falling out of love with reading–sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. 

How do you avoid burning out as an English major or college student in general? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Feminist Fridays: Masturbation Madness?

As I mentioned in my review of Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus collection, I’m currently taking senior seminar that solely focuses on Philip Roth. A few weeks ago I was assigned to read his 1969 novel Portnoy’s Complaint, and I have some thoughts. 

Portnoy’s Complaint is essentially one man’s long tirade about sex to his therapist. He starts by recounting his early years of experimenting with different ways of masturbating, from his sister’s bras to the liver that his family then ate for dinner. Throughout the novel we learn all about the women he’s hooked up with over the years, from prostitutes to random women he meets in his travels. Everything is described in graphic, explicit detail, including both the physical events as well as Alex’s (the narrator) thoughts about his many sexual experiences.

I don’t have a problem reading explicitly sexual books in class. What I have a problem is the blatant sexism in Roth’s novels and how it is often brushed off as being a mere “product of the time period.” Nope. Not an excuse. Just because something was written in a specific time and place does not mean it get’s a free pass to be read without any sort of discussion about its problematic elements. 

It also doesn’t help that the only women represented in Portnoy’s Complaint are those objectified for their bodies and who are thought of strictly in sexual terms. Even Alex’s mother is portrayed in this way, as shown when he implies that he wants to have sex with her (this novel is the definition of Freudian). And don’t get me started about Roth’s portrayal of menstruation: not only does he compare menstrual blood to that of meat, but he also claims that it was “better she should have bled herself out on the bathroom floor, better that, than to have sent an eleven-year-old boy in hot pursuit of sanitary napkins” (Roth 44). Why is this okay? And why don’t we talk about how it’s not okay?

Upon leaving my senior seminar on the day we discussed Portnoy’s Complaint, I couldn’t help feeling disappointed by all the things we hadn’t talked about. What about the way Alex calls one of the women he hooks up with “The Monkey”? What about how he only values women for their bodies, and once they start to talk about committed relationships or (gasp!) marriage, he calls them crazy and leaves them? Or what about the scene toward the end of the novel where he nearly rapes a woman? In what setting is it okay for these things to be brushed off in order to talk about Roth’s portrayal of Jewish identity for the millionth time this semester instead? 

Reading so much about masturbation from a man’s point of view also made me ask another important question: Why aren’t we reading about this from a woman’s point of view? Is there even an equivalent of this book written by a woman? If so, why isn’t it being talked about? If not, why hasn’t it been written? In a class dedicated to talking about the experiences of a man, I would hope for a bit more discussion about those of women. Considering recent events (particularly those in the United States), I feel as though Roth’s voice may not be the one that most desperately needs to be heard right now.

I understand the literary significance of Portnoy’s Complaint: it was revolutionary for its time, exploring topics of sex and masculinity in ways that hadn’t been done in such an explicit, graphic nature before. With that being said, there is absolutely no reason why we can’t discuss its enduring literary merit while also criticizing its problematic, sexist aspects. To do otherwise is to imply that what I feel as a woman reading this text doesn’t matter, that I should be able to turn off those emotions simply because it’s a “product of its time.” I’m sorry–I guess I’m just a product of my time, too.

Click here to check out other Feminist Friday posts!

What are your thoughts on Portnoy’s Complaint or about reading problematic/sexist texts in class? Have any feminist texts you would recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

SEPTEMBER 2018 | Wrap-Up

September has come and gone faster than I thought possible, especially considering how much has happened in the past month. It’s hard to believe that we’re already five weeks into the semester! Here’s what I’ve been up to:

In September I read a total of 8 books:

  1. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
  2. Butterfly Burning by Yvonne Vera
  3. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
  4. Without a Name by Yvonne Vera
  5. Under the Tongue by Yvonne Vera
  6. The Stone Virgins by Yvonne Vera
  7. Narrative Form by Suzanne Keen
  8. The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth

As you can tell, I’ve read a lot of Yvonne Vera’s writing in the past month. I’m currently in the process of researching for my honors thesis, which involves reading a majority of what Vera has written and learning more about Zimbabwean literary traditions and narrative form. (Let me know if this is something you would be interested hearing more about!)

It’s difficult to choose a favorite book this month because I genuinely loved everything I read by Vera, although much of it was painfully sad and unsettling. However, I’m going to have to go with Butterfly Burning as my favorite book of September. Not only is it the first book by Vera that I ever read (making this a reread for me), but it is also provides one of the most striking, moving, thought-provoking reading experiences. Would absolutely recommend!

+ MOVIE: Moving back to Wheaton means hopping aboard the Film Club train again! One of my best friends is the president of our Film Club this year, which makes attending meetings even more fun. A few weeks ago we watched Loving Vincent (2017), the first fully painted feature film ever created. This film is breathtaking. The painting technique is absolutely incredible and the story is heart-wrenching. If you ever get the opportunity to see this film, please do. 

+ MUSIC: Dodie recently released a new song called “Human” from her upcoming album and it is so lovely. The music video literally made my jaw drop–it makes you think about the song in an entirely different way!

+ FOOD: Chex mix has been sustaining me these past few weeks–always a go-to snack!

+ PLACE: I fell in love with my suite this month. I absolutely love living with three of my closest friends and I can’t imagine spending senior year any other way.

September was a month of many transitory ups and downs. Adjusting back to Wheaton has been difficult after a year away, both in terms of academics and missing Oxford dearly. Fortunately, I have a group of amazing friends and people who are always willing to listen and help when I need some cheering up. It also helps that senior year is filled with plenty of exciting events (amidst the mountains of work, of course). I’m grateful that I’ve found time to make fun, hilarious memories in between classes, working on my honors thesis, and apply to law schools.

Wheaton’s nondenominational chapel, home to a cappella performances and drag shows.

 

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to see Chris Fleming perform life at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston, which was amazing. I’ve been a fan of his Gayle videos for years, so seeing him in person was surreal. If you’ve never seen his comedy before, then you should definitely check it out!

 Here are some notable posts from my blog this past month:

How was your month of September? What was the best book you read? Did you do anything really fun or exciting? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

GOODBYE, COLUMBUS AND FIVE SHORT STORIES by Philip Roth | Review

I’m currently in the middle of senior seminar all about Philip Roth. That’s right: I’ll be reading a dozen books by Philip Roth over the course of the next semester. In an effort to gather my thoughts on these similar yet disparate texts, I’ll be reviewing them throughout the upcoming months. How far will I be able to get without turning into Philip Roth himself? Only time will tell!

Published in 1959, Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories is exactly what the title promises: a collection including Philip Roth’s first novella Goodbye, Columbus as well as five short stories. Although quite different from one another, these stories are tied together through the common threads of Jewish American identity, class, growing up, memory, tradition, and community. These themes prevent the collection from feeling disconnected or disjointed, making for a seamless reading experience in which the texts build on one another. Rather than continue to talk about this collection generally, I’ve decided to discuss each story more specifically in an attempt to do them justice.

Goodbye, Columbus

This novella is the first and longest part of the collection. Here Roth tells the story of Neil and Brenda, a college-age couple from different socioeconomic backgrounds in New Jersey during the 1950s. I was particularly interested in the way relationship dynamics are described, from conversations about family and the future to birth control. How things have changed since then!

“The Conversion of the Jews”

Focusing on a thirteen-year-old boy, this story questions religious authority and forces the reader to wonder why we insist on upholding the traditions that we do. While a bit bizarre (a common theme with Roth), the ending of this story made it all worth it.

“The Defender of the Faith”

This is my favorite story out of the collection, perhaps in part because it was the most controversial of the bunch when it was first published. Roth has been accused of being anti-semitic by negatively portraying Jewish soldiers as manipulative, selfish, and conniving; however, one could argue (as I do) that Roth is simply writing about flawed characters that happen to be Jewish rather than trying to make a statement about Judaism.

“Epstein”

This story made me genuinely angry due to the overt sexism of the protagonist. At one point he describes the sagging, aged body of his wife and ultimately has an affair with the women who lives across the street, completely ignorant of the fact that his own aging body likely looks equally unpleasant, if not worse. While I understand the literary function of this sexism (Roth later exposes Epstein, forcing him to realize his own bodily flaws), it still is jarring and unsettling to read.

“You Can’t Tell A Man By the Song He Sings”

I always forget about this story because it seems like an outlier in this collection. Nevertheless, the high school setting and convict characters are clever, hilarious, and make for a surprising and thought-provoking conclusion.

“Eli, the Fanatic”

Arguably the strangest story in the collection, Roth somehow makes its bizarre elements combine into one cohesive narrative. While I was left with the most questions after reading this story, they were questions that I didn’t mind asking myself. “Eli, the Fanatic” forces you to consider human difference, community, law, and tradition from new perspectives, providing this collection with the ideal conclusion.

Overall, my first foray into Roth’s writing entertained, captivated, and frustrated me all at the same time. I’m looking forward to seeing how these short stories compare to the novels we will be reading as this Philip Roth seminar progresses.

What are your thoughts on Goodbye, Columbus and Five Other Stories? Do you have a favorite novel by Philip Roth? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

AUGUST 2018 | Wrap-Up

What a month August was! I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like August is a month of transition. Perhaps this feeling has been instilled in me from decades of back-to-school prep, but it nevertheless rings true every year. Here’s what I’ve been up to this past month:

In August I read a total of 3 books:

  1. Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  2. Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli
  3. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions definitely wins the Favorite Book of the Month award from me in August. This text is incredibly empowering and thought-provoking and I would highly recommend it!

I wasn’t able to read much this month, but I’m still happy with what I did manage to read considering all that I was busy with otherwise. Hopefully I can squeak in some extra reading besides what’s required of me during this semester.

+ MOVIE: I actually didn’t watch any movies in the month of August. *gasp!* I was so busy trying to wrap everything up at home before moving back to campus for the start of the semester that my movie list went unwatched. However, I did listen to several great podcasts, including one of my new favorites: S-Town. Would highly recommend!

+ MUSIC: Lately I’ve been listening to Brockhampton, which has been an interesting time. The playlist I listened to on my commute during my last week of summer was a mix of rap and Disney songs, which pretty much sums up what a transition point in the year I’m in.

+ FOOD: Definitely burritos from the local place near my home in New Hampshire. I always make sure to go there a few times each summer before I have to leave for school.

+ PLACE: Ah, isn’t this the ultimate question this month? Moving back to Wheaton after an entire year away has been a strange and lovely experience, and I’m happy to say that the suite I now share with my friends has quickly become a favorite place this month.

What a month! August encompassed the last couple weeks of my summer as well as my move back to Wheaton after an entire year of being away. It’s been strange and overwhelming to be back in such a familiar place where I don’t know most of the students anymore, since most of the people I was close to outside of my class year have graduated. So many aspects of Wheaton are the same, yet many are so different that it makes me feel like a freshman again in some instances. At first I was taken aback, but fortunately I adjusted fairly quickly with the help of friends. The mountains of work have already begun to pile up, so there hasn’t been much time to wallow.

Mary Lyon Hall at Wheaton College, MA.

Also, can we just take a second to talk about how I’m a senior. I still can’t believe that this is my last year at Wheaton. Where has the time gone? It feels even shorter since I studied abroad, as though there should somehow be an extra year to make up for the one I didn’t experience here. However, part of me does feel ready to complete this year and take on a new path. I have a feeling that this year will be filled with the unexpected!

 Here are some notable posts from my blog this past month:

Here are some posts that I loved reading this month:

How was your month of August? What was the best book you read? Did you do anything really fun or exciting? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Books to Buy Your Rising College Senior

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) celebrates the back-to-school season with a school-related freebie. As per usual around this time of year, I’d like to share some fictional book titles that I sincerely wish existed (if you’re looking for the subject of your next writing project, then look no further!). As I start my second to last semester of college this week, I can’t help but wish I had more answers to my many burning questions. Without further ado, here is my list of the Top Ten Books to Buy for Your Rising College Senior:

What do you think of these titles? What books would you buy a rising college senior (real or otherwise)? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

How I Came to Study English in College (and why I stayed that way)

A few months ago someone commented on one of my blog posts asking if I could write about how I came to study English literature in college. Since my second to last semester of college begins in just two days, I thought now would be a good time to finally answer this question.

Growing up, English was always my favorite subject in school. I hesitate to say that it was my favorite class; unfortunately, English class was often viewed as a bit of a joke, particularly in high school. It wasn’t viewed as a “real” subject worth studying; instead, English class was merely another requirement, an easy class used to boost people’s GPAs. I hated this negative, deceiving, false stigma associated with studying English. This stigma is partly why I started blogging in high school in the first place. I wanted an outlet where I could discuss books without being viewed as strange or being told that I was wasting my time on something that didn’t matter.

You can imagine what people thought when I told them that I wanted to major in English literature in college. This pill was made a bit easier to swallow by the fact that I later wanted to go to law school (phew! people undoubtedly thought. Some practical light at the end of the liberal arts tunnel!) The puzzled glances I received astounded me. What was so bad about studying English?

Then came the inevitable question: Did I want to be a teacher? While there is nothing wrong with being a teacher–it’s one of the most important jobs, in my opinion–it frustrated me that people could only see one path for my future. When I told them I wanted to pursue a career in law, their eyes grew even wider. Most of them said they couldn’t picture me as an attorney–that I wasn’t cutthroat enough, competitive enough, or loud enough. (I don’t know when they started measuring one’s volume on the LSAT, but apparently these people were privy to secret information that I wasn’t). One day while I was checking an old man’s book out at the local library where I worked, he helpfully reminded me that “You have to be smart to be a lawyer, you know.” Fortunately, one of my coworkers stood up for me, chiming in with a generous “Oh, Holly doesn’t have to worry about that.”

But his comment bothered me, and in some way still does. Why did studying English automatically categorize me as a particular kind of person in the eyes of so many people? What gave people the impression that teaching was not only the sole profession that English majors could choose, but that it was also the sole profession that we should choose? What was it about this specific subject that closed its students off from all other occupational pursuits?

However, my time in college as well as my experience holding various job positions has taught me that those people in my high school who held these negative opinions lack any understanding of what it is actually like to study English literature. I like to split my degree into two parts: content and skills. When people look down upon English majors, they often do so by emphasizing the content aspect of the degree. What use is knowledge of obscure books that only other English majors ever read? Who cares what Jane Austen or William Faulkner had to say in their novels? While this view is inherently false in its own right for reasons I’m sure most bookworms understand, it also completely disregards the other half of English degrees.

My favorite aspect of my English degree (and the part that I value most) is that it teaches me how to think critically, work with large amounts of information at once, organize my thoughts, form and defend evidence-based arguments, and write. These are valuable, practical, marketable skills that have served me well in nearly all courses, internships, and jobs I’ve experienced. Although these skills happen to be applied to English literature while earning the degree, they can be applied to any and all contexts: historical texts, financial grant applications, social media pages, etc. I truly believe that the ability to write well is a priceless skill—just ask all of the friends, coworkers, and family members who ask me to edit their writing on a regular basis.

To answer the reader’s initial question, I chose to study English literature in college because reading and writing have always been passions of mine. However, I think a more interesting and important question is why I’ve continued to be an English major after so many people have advised me otherwise. The answer: because I believe the degree offers valuable skills that are essential for my professional success.

What are your thoughts on studying English literature in college? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

So you’ve just come back from studying abroad… now what? | Holly Goes Abroad

If you’ve been following this blog for the past year or so, then you’re probably well aware that I spent the last academic year studying abroad at the University of Oxford in England. Why? Because I talk about it incessantly. Why? Because I had an amazing time. As you can imagine (and as this post made abundantly clear) coming back to the United States at the beginning of the summer was incredibly difficult. After working so hard to settle in a new place, make new friends, and integrate myself into the Mansfield College community, it was jarring to be suddenly uprooted and expected to return back to my usual life back in the States.

Everyone talks about culture shock when you’re preparing to go abroad, but few people discuss the idea of reverse culture shock: i.e., the process of returning back home and having to adjust back to old environments, activities, and customs. Today I’d like to give a few pieces of advice that will hopefully help others (and myself!) with their adjustment returning from studying abroad.

+ Give yourself a mourning period. This might sound dramatic, but I’m not joking. Leaving a place and people you dearly love is difficult, and you won’t be able to fully move on unless you allow yourself to feel all of the emotions you need to feel. Cry if you have to. Look through all of the photos you took and reminisce about the remarkable memories you made. However, be sure not to get stuck in this rut. Once you feel as though you’ve given yourself enough time to let off some steam, it’s time to start looking forward more often than looking back.

+ Accept where you are. Your study abroad experience is done. There’s no way to go back and recreate it. While embracing these facts is important, it’s equally essential to remember that just because something is over doesn’t mean you have to completely forget about it. Keep in touch with friends you made abroad, look fondly at the great times you had, and try not to lose the happiness and curiosity you exuded while you were there. It might feel like you’re in the middle of some in-between state, and that’s okay: you are.

Oxford.

+ Reach out. One of the things that helped me the most this past summer was reaching out to friends and family, both old and new. Staying in touch with the friends I made at Oxford was incredibly helpful because we were able to talk about how we were all feeling in the midst of this transition. You can imagine the relief we all felt once we realized that we were all riding similar rollercoasters of emotions. Likewise, reaching out to friends and family from home helped me turn my attention to the present and future. Not only was it fun catching up with everyone I hadn’t seen in months, but hanging out with old friends and spending time with family reminded me of what I love about home, too.

+ Keep busy. Whenever I’m stressed or sad, I try to be as productive as possible (fortunately, there’s plenty to do going into my senior year of college!). If you don’t have much work to do, at least try to get back into a regular routine. Get out of the house, visit friends, clean your room, read a book, reply to all of those emails you’ve been meaning to catch up on—whatever it is that needs getting done, do it. Staying busy is a good way to keep your mind off of missing being abroad; besides, your future self with thank you for it when your life is more organized!

New Hampshire.

+ Do things you love. Although my year at Oxford was amazing, I didn’t have a lot of free time to do the things I love to do back home (reading things not assigned for courses, writing, blogging, etc.). Diving back into these hobbies really helped me feel more like myself as I tried to reconnect with my life back home.

+ Share your experience. If you’re anything like me, sharing your experiences helps you think through them and process them better. Share stories with friends and family or even reach out to the Study Abroad Center at your college. Often they are looking for volunteers to share their experiences with students looking to see if studying abroad is the right fit for them. Also: if anyone tells you that you talk about studying abroad too much, don’t take it too personally. If this experience was important to you, then you have the right to talk about it (so long as it’s not done in an obnoxious way).

+ Things take time. This is not an overnight process. You may continue to feel sad or a bit lost for weeks or even months, and that’s okay. Eventually all of the pieces will settle down where they belong and things will feel less scattered. For now, just focus on taking it one step at a time.

I hope these tips help anyone returning from an amazing study abroad experience! It can be tough, but it gets better.

Click here to check out other posts in my Holly Goes Abroad series!

Have you ever had to transition back from studying abroad? Have any tips you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY