Bringing the learning home (Australian Learning & Teaching Council)

Sun, Sand and Fish and Chips

36 hours to pack, 15 hour flight home and 19 hours later sitting back in a lecture theatre; not the way I had planned my return home to Australia but that was the reality I faced.

As the plane started its descent into Sydney my heart was racing. I was more nervous coming ‘home’ than I was starting this whole adventure. What was I coming back to? Before I left I had run away from a few things using the excuse that I would be abroad for the next year so I could not commit to anything. In the last week before my departure I had three final exams, a farewell dinner and the enormous task of packing my bag (which I finalised the night before!). Things were a blur before I jumped into the unknown, but looking back that was so much easier than coming back. While overseas I logically knew that time continued second by second, at the same rate for my friends and family back home and for me in Japan. But while I was living my life over there it didn’t seem as though things were in Australia were progressing at all because I wasn’t there. I had sat through the workshop on culture shock at the pre-departure meeting and studied the theories in commerce, but I didn’t real feel as though I experienced the trough in the experience curve…until I encountered reverse culture shock. Coming back to what I thought I knew but knowing it would be different, was a daunting and overwhelming thought. For a while after I was home it felt like I was playing a life-size spot the difference. And every difference I saw reminded me not only of what I had missed in Australia while I was away, but how much I was missing my life in Japan. Using facebook as a window looking at all the things that I should have and could have been doing; it was hard and there were many moments where I found myself wishing that I was not back. The day before I returned, while I was packing the life I had created for myself back into my bag (which seemed to have become a lot smaller since my arrival) I was sitting, surrounded by the clothes I had taken out of my draws, with nothing in my suitcase, overwhelmed by what I had to do. It was such an emotional experience and battle of will to finally empty my room and zip up my bag for the final time, knowing that this was the end.

Coming back to Australia did make me reflect upon what I had missed while I was away; fish and chips at the beach, walking along the sand, rolling down a grassy hill, looking out onto the horizon. The things that remind you of the Aussie lifestyle 🙂 Before I had even reached my house I made my parents drive the coastal road around North Beach. We sat and had fish and chips, taking in the moment. Even embracing the flies and the seagulls 😉 To be honest though it felt like I had come back for a holiday. I had to keep reminding myself that I didn’t need to try the food or drink right then and there because I would be able to come back in a day, a week, a month, a year and the same thing would still be there. The permanence; the indefinite of the monotony that I had wanted to get away from was there once again. My days consisted of going to Uni, coming home, doing homework and then doing it all again the following day. A few times I caught myself looking around campus for the friends who I had studied with in Japan only to find myself being disappointed. Campus was so lonely without my Australian friends who had graduated the year before, without my Japanese swim team and without a communal lunch hour in which we used to sit and make friends with other students.

Living at home again I have also noticed how much chicken my family consumes! It seems as though I’m eating it at least once a day. In Japan frequently meal time would turn into Master Chef; my friends and I would bring the contents of our fridge to the communal cooking area and be faced with the challenge of creating something for dinner. Some of the dishes were rather inventive but nothing inedible was made and every day was a surprise. I now crave rice, particularly onigiri (which was only ¥100), so cheap yet so satisfying and am still adjusting to the Australian diet which is the only thing I’d ever known before going away. It seems so strange that nine months can change a lifetime. I’m still waiting for Dad to set up the BBQ so that I can be a true Aussie and “throw a few shrimps on the barbie” as my American friends often told me.

Before going on exchange, going on exchange was my goal. I was working four part-time jobs in order to self-finance my trip and was so committed to my Uni work for fear of failing and being ineligible to actually participate on the study abroad. Coming home I didn’t have that driving goal and I felt lost. It has taken me three months to build and work towards my next challenge but I am confident that I will get there. I am slowly beginning to settle back into ‘Aussie life’ but don’t think I’ll be back for very long before my next sojourn overseas, whether it be as a holiday or for work, after having this experience I will not be content until I can see and do all that is out there waiting to be discovered.


One response

  1. Jan Gothard


    I do so empathise with your post-Japan culture shock! When I went on to live in London after a year in Japan, it seemed to take me forever to get over my loss. I would haunt the Japanese shop in Regent Street, hanging on to every word of Japanese conversation, and my comfort food became a bowl of rice (eaten with hashi of course) with pickles (ginger and daikon), followed by a bowl of miso. That is still the authentic taste of Japan for me. Finding myself in a crowd too, or on the underground, where I couldn’t see over the top was also quite a shock! I hadn’t realised that as a reasonably tall gaijin I could generally see over people’s heads – public transport claustrophobia became my new companion! I didn’t miss Australia, I missed Japan. It got better. But sadly, though I swore I would get back, so far I haven’t.

    I really appreciated your honest comments on re-entry, especially your reflections on the relative speeds of time. Are you sharing your thoughts with other returnees? How about your old friends – do they ‘get it’?

    This is a a good site for sharing your memories and experiences, especially as we have quite a few ex-Japanese sojourners on board. Let’s hear more about re-entry


    June 4, 2011 at 5:14 am

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