Coming home after studying abroad can be quite a shock to the system. In many ways, it can be just as difficult and unsettling as starting out in a new country. Many students who study abroad experience the same kind of culture shock upon their return home that they did upon their arrival in their host country. It is important for students to be prepared for the shock, so that they can overcome it and readjust to home as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Culture shock is the emotional, mental, and physical adjustment to life in a new place. Many students experience this upon their arrival in a new country, and many experience it upon their return back home. Some students report that “reverse culture shock,” as it is often called, is more stressful and difficult than the original culture shock.
It is important to accept that your post-study abroad life is going to be different from your pre-study abroad life. You are not the same person you were when you left home. You have had a variety of exciting and transformative experiences, and have most likely returned with a more open mind, as well as new ideas about your life, education, and future. This is a good thing! Embrace these changes in yourself!
Friends & Family
That being said, your family and friends at home will most likely not be expecting any changes in you that you might experience. They probably expect you to return home as roughly the same person who left them. They may not be prepared for any major changes in you, as for you, the changes have happened very gradually over time, but they are being asked to accept these changes all at once. This can be extremely frustrating for everyone involved, and it is important to stay patient and understanding. Try not to shut your friends and family out in frustration. No one is at fault here.
Keeping in Touch
It is also important to make sure you stay in touch with the friends you made while abroad. Whether they be fellow study abroad students or native to your host country, these are relationships that can last you for the rest of your lives. Don’t let distance get in the way of your friendships—email, Facebook, and Skype make maintaining long-distance relationships far easier than it used to be. These are also friends who have experienced many of the same events that you have during your time abroad, and so you will be able to reminisce with them and bond in a way that you cannot with your friends from home. You will be grateful to have people who understand your experiences more fully than your friends and family from home.
Readjusting to life at home can be extremely difficult and frustrating. It is important to take things one day at a time; things will begin to get easier very soon. Try to focus on the positives of being back home; everything from home that you’ve missed during your time abroad is suddenly available to you again!
Some students choose to keep a mementos from their time abroad with them after their return home. Something small that you can carry with you at all times is nice to have with you as a reminder of your experiences abroad. It can also serve as a reminder that you can go back, if you so choose.
After returning home, you can combat culture shock by putting your new global knowledge, experience, and intercultural skills to work. Colleges are historically great places for social, ecological, peace, and political movements to form and take root. Being surrounded by young, driven, like-minded people is a highly conducive environment for initiating change. Use your new-found take on life to make your world a better place!