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. Some students find that they have changed and grown a great deal while abroad, but that home, family and friends have not, and this gap makes it challenging to slip back into settings, routines, and relationships that were once familiar and comfortable. You should expect a certain amount of this 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.

Common Reentry (“Reverse Culture Shock”) Experiences:  

  • 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 you find yourself experiencing difficulty after coming home:

  • 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.
  • 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: Help spread the word about study abroad to your friends and classmates, participate in symposia, share your pictures with the campus community, assist the study abroad advisor with outreach to different classes as a study abroad ambassador, enjoy the International Education Week events!
  • 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.

Resume Resources

While it is hard to forget a Study Abroad experience, Purchase Study Abroad Alumni preparing for life after graduation often neglect to include this academic experience on a resume. When applying for future positions it is important to highlight what set’s you apart from other recent graduates. Including your study abroad experience on your resume, cover letters, in interviews helps potential employers recognize highly desirable skills you may have obtain abroad like intercultural communication, adaptability, etc. Purchase Students and Alumni can utilize the Purchase Career Development Center’s assistance with this. Be sure to check out their Online Resources Page; they have a number of links for International and Teaching English Abroad Companies.

Get Involved

The Office of International Program & Services (OIPS) is always looking for volunteers.  Would you be interested in:

  • Hosting an Informational Table about Studying Abroad
  • Creating a short video of your trip or a specific topic (calling all Film and New Media majors!)
  • Assisting us during our weekly Study Abroad 101 Sessions
  • Working with Purchase Faculty-Led Program Professors at the Study Abroad Fair and Informational Sessions
  • Writing a 2-3 paragraph summary of your experience for local papers, OIPS newsletters, and other marketing outlets
  • Providing us with your favorite photos for the website
  • Interning with OIPS; we recruit a Social Media Intern each semester
  • Apply for a student worker position with OIPS (Jobs are listed periodically on the Career Development Center’s JobScore Page.

Helpful Links: