Returning to Life Back Home

Just as you had to adjust to your new life abroad, you will also need to re-adjust back to the culture and lifestyle of your home community. At times, this process can be more difficult than your transition into your host culture because you may find things different from how you left them, even though you expected everything to be the same.

Reverse culture shock is described in four stages:
  1. Disengagement: as you prepare for your return back to your country of origin, you also begin to realize that it is time to say good-bye to your friends abroad and the place that you have come to call home during your studies overseas. With the hustle and bustle of finals, good-bye parties, and packing, your last few days fly by so fast that you may not have any time to reflect on your emotions and experiences.
  2. Initial euphoria: after the airplane touches down and you are greeted by your friends or family, it will likely seem very exciting to be back in your home community once again. You become reacquainted with the people you have been missing, and much as everything seemed new and exciting when you first arrived abroad, you may find that everything back home seems new and exciting too.
  3. Frustration: you may experience feelings of frustration, anger, alienation, loneliness, disorientation, and helplessness and not understand exactly why. You might quickly become critical of your native culture. Depression, feeling like a stranger at home, and the longing to go back abroad are also not uncommon reactions. You may also feel less independent than you were while abroad.
  4. Gradual readjustment: things will start to seem a little more normal again, and you will probably fall back into some old routines, but things won't be exactly the same as you left them. You may have developed new attitudes, beliefs, habits, as well as personal and professional goals, and may see things differently now. The important thing is to try to incorporate the positive aspects of your international experience with the positive aspects of your life in your native country. Hopefully, the knowledge and new perspectives that you gained while studying abroad will stay with you for the rest of your life.

In addition to being aware of the stages of reverse culture shock, there are also many re-entry resources that can be very helpful in making the adjustment back into home country culture. The following link provides a list of books, articles, websites and movies that can be useful tools in easing the transition.

http://www.middlebury.edu/international/sa/returning/reentry_resources

Another great idea is to attend a re-entry conference in your area upon returning home. There are many re-entry conferences hosted by regional groups or colleges and universities. Check out Lessons From Abroad, an organization that is dedicated to assisting students in the re-entry process, who maintains a list of these conferences hosted across the United States: http://www.lessonsfromabroad.org/resources/conferences-events/