Coming home after studying abroad can be just as daunting as leaving was. In many ways, it can be just as unsettling as starting out in a new country. Students will want to be adequately prepared for this culture shock in order to readjust to home as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Culture shock is the emotional, mental, and physical adjustment to life in a new place. It is often reported that students experience this upon their arrival in a new country, and many go struggle with it again when they return home. “Reverse culture shock,” as it is often called, is more stressful and difficult than the original.
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 many exciting and transformative experiences, and have 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
Your family and friends at home may not expect you to change. They may believe you’ll return home as the same person who left them. They may not be prepared for any major changes in you. For you, the changes you’ve experienced have happened very gradually, so you may not feel very different. But your loved ones are in many ways meeting the new you and 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.
Keeping in Touch
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 the rest of your life. Don’t let distance get in the way of your friendships. Online capabilities make maintaining long-distance relationships easier than it’s ever been. These are also friends who have experienced many of the same events that you have during your time abroad, 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 than your friends and family from home.
Readjusting to life at home can be extremely difficult and frustrating. Take things one day at a time. As they did in your time abroad, things will get easier with time. Try to focus on the positives of being back home. Everything from home that you’ve missed during your time abroad is available to you again!
Some students choose to keep mementos when they return home. Something small that you can carry with you is nice to have with you as a reminder of your experiences. It can also serve as a reminder that you can always go back.
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 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, wherever that is.