Reverse Culture Shock
Few people anticipate culture shock when they return home, but many students actually find that it is just as challenging to get used to being at home again as it was to get used to living abroad.
You should expect a certain amount of this “reverse culture shock” if you have had a full and enriching time overseas. It is important not to ignore the experience of reentry as a facet of study abroad: readjusting to life at home is difficult and what you’re feeling is entirely legitimate.
Remember that you have experienced transitions before—other unsettling periods in your life when you had to make adjustments and changes in your lifestyle and your self-perception. And you managed! Give yourself the time you need to transition back to life in the US.
Can you relate to any of the common reentry or “Reverse Culture Shock” experiences listed below?
- Impression that you can’t fully explain your experience or its importance
- Realization that others do not want to hear very much about your adventures
- Sensation of being “out of place” despite being home
- Boredom with being home
- Experiencing homesickness for the place where you studied abroad
- Seeing that relationships with family and friends have changed
- Feeling that others misunderstand your growth, or see the “wrong” changes in you
- Assessing your home in a way that is judgmental or overly critical
- Feeling that your experience abroad is lost or cut off from the rest of your life
If any of the experiences described above sound familiar, you can try implementing the approaches listed below as a possible way to address some of your reentry discomfort.
- Reconnect with what made you fall in love with Purchase. Take a walk around campus, watch a performance or visit an art show, or just spend hours in the lunchroom catching up with good friends.
- Try to use the same cultural adaptation skills that you developed while you were getting used to being abroad (e.g. keep active, maintain a sense of humor, find a support group, expect differences, allow yourself to make mistakes, stay flexible) to make the transition to being home.
- Be reflective. Give some thought to your return and to the types of intellectual and emotional changes that you have undergone as a result of your time abroad.
- Expect some negative feelings about your “home” culture. Try not to be too critical of shortcomings that you did not see before. Remember that at there are positive and negative aspects of all cultures.
- Accentuate the positive. Try to identify what you like about both cultures and try to incorporate the best aspects of these into your life.
- Make new friends who have had similar experiences. By finding someone who may have recently had similar experiences, you share a common language about your experience and how this affected you.
- Be patient with your friends and family who are trying to understand your recent experiences. Listen to them, too, about the changes they underwent during the time you were away.
- Maintain connections with “the international life” through the many opportunities available at Purchase. There are courses, clubs and many internationally minded students at Purchase. Keep alive the curiosity that was sparked abroad. Participate in outreach events through OGE, share your pictures with the campus community, or become a Global Ambassador!
- Keep in touch with friends you made abroad. They too may be going through similar frustrations and can likely provide support and perspective.
- Set goals for your development. Realize once again that change can be stimulating and this could be your chance to develop in new directions. Set some long-term goals, which may involve finding ways to return abroad.
The links below may also provide helpful tips for dealing with reverse culture shock.