Reflect on the positive gains from your study abroad and be aware of reverse culture shock as you complete your transition back to life in the United States. See below for more details.
Reverse Culture Shock
Returning home from studying abroad can be a challenging time, but it can also be a time when students learn the most from their intercultural experience. Some study abroad returnees re-acclimate with ease, but most experience some degree of stress upon returning home. In fact, for many students the process of adapting to life at home after studying abroad is more difficult than adjusting to the host culture.
Personal Growth and Change
Students may have experienced challenges to their beliefs, convictions, values, and worldview while immersed in a different culture. They also may have experienced more academic freedom and personal independence while abroad, contributing to more self-confidence. Most will undoubtedly have changed in numerous ways. One of the significant challenges of re-entry is having to adjust your new self to your old context. A feeling of disorientation is a common experience for returnees during this time.
New Knowledge and Skills
Just as your attitudes changed while you were abroad, you probably developed new knowledge, skills, and behavior patterns. For example, you developed competencies that helped you survive everyday life overseas — such as learning to navigate new cities and environments, to act in a culturally appropriate manner, and to converse about new subjects — and, of course, foreign language skills. Other new competencies may include insights into and knowledge about your academic interests, your professional goals, and new research methods and enhanced problem-solving skills. Some returnees are frustrated if these skills are less useful once they are home.
Relationships with Family and Friends
Some study abroad returnees indicate that the most complicated issue to deal with upon return is relationships with family and friends. It is important to realize that others might have changed as well while you were abroad. Many returnees describe feelings of incongruity, and some feel pressure from family and friends to return to being the person they were before studying abroad. Perhaps the most difficult and most common aspect of this issue is describing your overseas experience to others. Beyond general inquiries and questions, friends and family may not appear interested in understanding your experiences and their impact.
Remember that the symptoms of reverse culture shock are normal, and not all students experience reverse culture shock in the same way. If you're struggling with being back in your home country, consider meeting with a counselor at Student Health Services. You might also find the resources in the Abroad Worldwide Handbook to be helpful.