»Dealing With Reverse Culture Shock

You’ve just had this amazing, life-changing experience abroad exploring new things, people, ideas, foods, cultures, and even reflecting on your values.  Now that you are back, you may find that returning home can even be a harder adjustment than when you first went abroad. Reverse culture shock is the feeling that while study abroad may have changed you, everything back home has remained the same. You know that maybe your values, ideas, and attitudes, or concepts of what is right and wrong has changed.  How much you understand the changes you have gone through and how much your friends and family accept these changes might be different.  

It is important to take time to consider what the particular frustrations are for you. To combat these challenges, you can prepare by being flexible and open-minded about returning home.  Other study abroad students are going through these emotions and you can turn to each other to support.  Take a moment to reflect on the Top 10 Re-entry Challenges and Solutions for study abroad students.

Top 10 Study Abroad Reentry Challenges and Strategies

  1. Boredom – life isn’t as exciting as it was while you were abroad. Solution: Follow your new adventure spirit and interests - explore what your home and Chapman has to offer.
  2. “No One Wants to Hear” about your experiences. Solution: Do not be upset if people seem indifferent to your experience abroad.  Understand that those who haven’t studied abroad will have a hard time relating.  Generally students who want to study abroad in the future will be very interested to hear your stories. Find out through our office how you can connect with them!  
  3. It’s hard to explain your experiences and what you went through to people back home. Solution: Talk with others who have come back from abroad and share your experiences, frustration, and joys. You will likely find that these are the people who can help you through it. 
  4. Reverse “Homesickness” - Missing the place you studied abroad. Solution: Go to a World Market and get Nutella if you miss the UK, Japanese tea if you miss Japan.  There are many country-specific markets in Southern California. Everything is available on the Internet! 
  5. Relationships have changed with friends, family, and significant others back home. Solution: Accept that you have changed and that things are not going to be the same as when you left and that's a good thing.  You will need to build on relationships, not merely resume them. No one's life went on hold just because you were gone, and his or her experiences are just as important to him or her.
  6. People see the “wrong” changes if your ideas and behavior have changed.Solution:  Focus on how you are now better off from the experiences you have had.
  7. People misunderstand you if you use words or actions that you picked up while abroad. Solution: Try to apply what you learned abroad to your life here. What can be saved? What is useful?
  8. Feelings of Alienation/Critical Eyes – Feeling out of place in the U.S. and recognizing the faults of society.Solution: Don't isolate yourself.  Use your cross-cultural study-abroad skills to observe and understand your own culture.
  9. Few opportunities to apply all the new social, language, or practical coping skills learned. Solution: What does Chapman offer that you can apply your new skills to? Join a language or cultural club on campus.
  10. Afraid of losing the experience back home.Solution: Keep your memories alive – do not store them away in a shoebox. It wasn't a dream and it was important.

Remember: Like culture shock, re-entry shock passes in time.

(adapted What’s Up With Culture?, School of International Studies, University of the Pacific, Bruce La Brack, ed. (2003), funding by FIPSE, U.S. Department of Education. Available at www.pacific.edu/culture)

If you feel that you need to speak to a counselor confidentially in a safe environment, please contact Student Psychological and Counseling Services.  

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