The unsettled feeling that can accompany one’s return from abroad is what some refer to as “reverse culture shock” and is a very common reaction for students coming home from studying abroad. Feelings can range from the sense that no one understands how you've changed, to feeling panicked that you will lose part of your identity if you don’t have an outlet to pursue the new interests that were sparked abroad. Your own reactions to reintegrating to life the United States may vary from your friends, but may include one or more of the following:
- Uncertainty, confusion about the future
- Isolation or wanting to be alone<
- Reverse homesickness: missing the people, places, attitudes or lifestyles of your host country
- Changes in life goals and priorities
- Negativity or intolerance toward the United States, including Americans' behavior, attitudes, customs and common social practice
According to professionals in the field of International Education, 85% of people
returning home have some kind of re-entry experience, and of those, 15% have more
serious difficulties adapting to their return. If you’re having difficulty with your
return, think back to the adjustments you made to succeed while you were abroad. These
same skills can help you in coming home.
Remember that “W”-curve of cultural adjustment—the initial euphoria, followed by lots of criticism, followed by general acceptance and understanding of the new culture? Well, the same pattern applies to re-entry. The coping skills and strategies that were successful in helping you to adjust to your overseas culture will be just as helpful in making the return home: get involved, identify a support group of other study abroad students, suspend judgment of others, keep a journal of your observations, and don’t forget to keep your sense of humor. Students are also encouraged to seek professional help at the Counseling Center.