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Returning home after your study abroad can bring on a host of new feelings, some rewarding, and others unsettling. In fact, it may feel much like when you arrived at your host country. You may also find that you have changed, and that home feels “foreign,” unfamiliar or unnatural.
Many students also find it difficult to convey their experience abroad to friends, family and even potential employers. For these reasons, we encourage students to actively reflect on their experiences abroad and think about how those experiences have changed or impacted them. Reflection will help you process your experience and better communicate that experience to others.
Some emotions you might experience when returning from study abroad include:
- Excitement of being home with family and friends (like the “honeymoon stage” of initial culture shock)
- Difficulty expressing your feelings about your experiences
- Trouble in understanding your culture (norms, values, negative views, etc.)
- Difficulty applying knowledge or using new skills (foreign language, etc.)
- Need to learn new cultural aspects (slang, cultural references, etc.)
Your experience is your own and there is no prescribed way to readjust. While there are common emotions you may have after returning from abroad, everyone reacts differently to coming home. You changed when you were abroad and now you are in an environment where you can see those changes.
Cultural readjustment does not mean you have to return to your pre-study abroad self; it means you are rebuilding relationships and negotiating this “new” you with people who remember the “old” you.
It is important to note that everyone reacts differently to cultural readjustment. All of these feelings are normal and are an ongoing part of your cross-cultural experience. It might just be a short period of time before you feel adjusted.
If feelings of reverse culture shock seem to be prolonged, you may want to consider seeing a mental health professional. Keep in mind the professional services and assistance you have available to you on campus through the Norris Health Center.
The ups and downs of reentry are to be expected and usually pass in time. Part of your readjustment is taking the time to consider what your study abroad experience means for your future.
Your study abroad program has ended, but do not let your experiences fade; instead, use them. The challenges you overcame, the goals you accomplished and the people and places you encountered along the way all have relevance to your future study, career and life experiences. Consider how you can use what you learned abroad in your academic studies or career.
Study abroad is a great addition to a resume. In addition, you may find that you are interested in more globally-focused careers. Students are strongly encouraged to share their education abroad experiences with future employers.
Your study abroad experience is just a new beginning. Where will it take you next? Visit CIE’s website for more detailed information on further enriching your study abroad experience by getting involved after study abroad.