Readjusting to life back home after being abroad is tough. While you’re probably excited to see your family and friends, maybe you miss that coffee shop that was down the street from your home in Spain, or maybe you miss being surrounded by the local language.
If you are missing your abroad experience, never fear! There are a number of things you can do to keep your overseas experience alive once returning home.
Some of these things can be really simple. Maybe you helped to build houses in Guatemala, so why not give volunteering back home a try? Or if you’re still in university, maybe there is a student organization related to the country you studied abroad in that you could join.
One of the things I enjoy doing, to relive my time in Japan, is going to Japanese festivals in the US.
Now, Chicago isn’t known for having a huge Japanese population, but during the summertime there are often 3-4 annual Japanese festivals that take place throughout the city.
One of my favorite festivals is held at Mitsuwa Marketplace in Arlington Heights. Every August they hold their annual Bon Odori Matsuri (Bon is a time for honoring ancestors, odori meaning to dance, and matsuri meaning festival). “Honoring ancestors dance festival”– maybe now you can guess as to why this is one of my favorite festivals.
People of all ages come together to celebrate this festival– and most even come dressed in yukata.
Throughout the morning there are various performances and demonstrations, including karate, traditional music, and of course, taiko drum.
The taiko drum performers are a part of the Chicago-based group Tsukasa Taiko, and some of the performances are done by children as little as 5 years old. It’s great that, despite living in the USA, the children are still able to embrace parts of their culture.
No Japanese festival would be complete without food stands, and plenty of food stands there were. Popular festival foods such as takoyaki (octopus balls), okonomiyaki (think cabbage pancakes) and yakitori (grilled skewered chicken) were all freshly prepared and ready to order.
Sweets such as wataame (cotton candy) and kakigori (shaved ice) are always popular with the kids.
Refreshing Japanese drinks were also sold like ramune and calpico– great for a hot summer day.
Traditional games were set up like Kingyo-sukui. A favorite of both children and adults, this game involves scooping up goldfish with rice paper scoops called poi.
Obviously being made of paper, the longer you keep your scoop in the water and the faster you move it, the more likely it is going to break. This game takes both skill and a lot of patience to catch a fish.
At least once you’ve caught a fish you’re able to take it home as your prize!
Of course my favorite part of the night is when it’s time to odori, or dance. Folk dances are performed in circles around a high wooden scaffold.
Often the dances were led by more er, seasoned ladies, who were more than willing teach the younger generations. There was something so beautiful about seeing the culture being passed down through generations.
People joined in as they pleased or formed a giant circle to watch the event take place. The dance moves were so fun and really simple, it was only a matter of time that spectators would give it a try. Most of them tell a story about life for people long ago.
My favorite dance, called Tanko Bushi, refers to the Miike Mine in Kyushu. The movements depict coal miners digging, hanging lanterns and pushing their carts.
Even small children jumped around with their paper fans to the beat of the folk songs. And after an hour of dancing in circles, I almost forgot where I really was. It felt like I was in Japan rather than in some parking lot in the Midwest.
Just because you return from abroad doesn’t mean you have to give up the life-changing experiences. Although your parents may instill what seems like an unreasonable curfew and you may not hear Cantonese on a daily basis, you can still seek out fun and exciting experiences to help you relive your time abroad.
And who knows, some of them might just make you forget that you’re back home.