Returning from study abroad

As you have already been informed, many who travel abroad for extended periods of time experience culture shock. The experience abroad can change you in many ways, and the return home can lead to a reentry-related culture shock as well.

You can prepare for this by framing your return as a cultural experience, reminding yourself that you have indeed been transformed by your time abroad, taking the time to adjust, and seeking support as you need it.

While the information on culture shock that you read in preparation for your time abroad applies to your reentry, you should also know of some specific ways in which returning from study abroad can be experienced.

Reverse culture shock can lead to concerns related to:

Family

  1. Fitting back in; knowing you've changed and wondering how your family will accept your changed self.
  2. Not being able to live up to their expectations.
  3. Natural family's jealousy over your affection for and closeness with host family.
  4. Readjusting to manners and food.
  5. Being treated like a child after having experienced a lot of freedom and independence.
  6. Being considered arrogant, or not being understood and accepted.
  7. Boring family with tales of overseas life.
  8. Family may see you as culturally closer to host country than to the United States.

Friends

  1. Reactions of old friends to the "new you."
  2. Being able to communicate with friends.
  3. Old friends may have moved; you may need to make new friends in a younger class.
  4. Friends may think you are bragging and showing off when speaking about your experiences abroad.
  5. Not being able to live up to their expectations.
  6. Being out of sync with people's lives, missing events that happened while you were away.
  7. Being able to pick up old friendships -- will it be possible?

School

  1. Making up a missed semester or year, catching up on courses you still need.
  2. Re-adjusting to coursework and U.S. teaching styles.
  3. Re-adjusting to U.S. academic system.

Language and culture

  1. Mixing foreign language with English.
  2. Losing the ability to speak the second language well.
  3. Feeling culturally mixed, between cultures, unclear sense of belonging.

After a period of adjustment, the reverse culture shock will eventually give way to a new equilibrium, and you will settle back into life after your return.