How to deal with reverse culture shock after your study abroad experience

You probably have encountered the concept of “culture shock” when travelling or living abroad for study or work. However, following a stint overseas, you could get “reverse culture shock” after returning to your home country.

Reverse culture shock is a typical reaction after returning home after some time abroad. Symptoms of reverse culture shock can vary but may include:

  • Feeling that no one understands how you have changed from being abroad
  • Worrying that you would lose the valuable lessons gained while overseas, as your home country may not have the resources enabling you to pursue what you did abroad.
  • Feeling disoriented, bored and confused about your future plans once home

How can you deal with reverse culture shock? Read on to learn how to tackle and make the best use of your time back home!

What is “reverse culture shock”?

Returning home demands certain lifestyle changes, just as studying or living abroad did. Who you were before you left may not be who you are now. You may have successfully managed to survive and live in a totally foreign culture, and have developed personally and intellectually. For example, if you were studying French abroad in France, you may have picked up and even mastered French to communicate with others for an extended period. Moreover, you may have acquired new habits and ideas, both consciously or unwittingly!

In turn, your beloved family, friends, and acquaintances may find it challenging to understand the changes you have undergone during your time away. They may expect you to be the same person before you left. Thus, you may experience difficulties trying to readjust back to old roles, as well as exploring new ones, both at home, in school, or in the workplace. You may feel powerless under such pressure.

The following sections provide tips on how to deal with reverse culture shock after studying abroad.

#1: Know and accept changes you have undergone while studying abroad

One of the first ways to readjust to life back home is to recognize that you have changed and developed as a person. Your worldview has most likely been broadened, your foreign language abilities may have improved immensely, and your circle of friends may have widened to include people from all over the world.

It may be challenging to explain your life experiences to those back home who have not experience them firsthand to fully understand them.

In light of this reverse culture shock, one useful habit would be to journal your reflections as you readjust. A journal entry can be as short as a few words or sentences to describe your feelings, emotions, as well as experiences settling in back home. Hopefully, by doing so, you can better process and acknowledge the experiences and challenges in your path.

#2: Reach out to people you met while studying abroad

A key benefit of living in an interconnected world is that, if you miss the people you have met while studying abroad, you can reach out to them via technological means, such as Skype or social media platforms. While this would not alter the reality that you are not physically in the same country anymore, such ways can help you share the ups and downs of adjusting to life back home with others who may be undergoing similar experiences.

Besides, you may also wish to attend in-person meetups with people who have experienced similar episodes of reverse culture shock in your home country. For instance, you may consider attending an event organized by fellow study abroad alumni, or even initiating one such event to gather students who just returned. Such experiences would hopefully mitigate negative experiences of reverse culture shock that you have encountered, while enabling you to reach out to others who can relate.

#3: Relive memories via creative means

Reliving your memorable study abroad experiences via creative and technological means, such as via a personal blog, can be an excellent way to articulate your thoughts and experiences to your target audiences. For one, these audiences would already be interested in what you have to share about life while studying abroad.

Apart from being a platform to gather your thoughts, reflections and stories, your blog can be a great launchpad to pad your own resume for future employment. Your posts, when insightful and inspirational, can serve as useful material when applying for jobs in the future, as prospective hiring managers may take a look at your self-development journey. If writing is not your cup of tea, how about creating short video clips detailing your study abroad experiences, as well as the reverse culture shock you encountered returning home?

If you prefer more old-school methods to express your thoughts or relive your memories, consider making a scrapbook or photo book to keep your memories and show them to people who are curious to learn more about your experiences.

#4. Explore new things in your home country

You may have realized that you enjoy experiencing new cultures or learning new languages while studying abroad. Having said that, returning to your home country does not mean that you have to cease all these cultural pursuits. Rather, you can try exploring new things in your home country that help you reminisce about the wonderful times you had. If you studied abroad in Japan and miss Japanese food, you can find an eatery that serves delicious Japanese cuisine back home. Alternatively, you can even organize a Japanese food themed party showcasing your culinary knowledge to others.

“Reverse culture shock” can be a useful growth catalyst

Admittedly, “reverse culture shock” can be a trying experience for many returnees from abroad. Nonetheless, once you adopt a positive and introspective perspective of what you are experiencing, you can learn how to successfully tackle these confusing and challenging times. By adopting one or some of the aforementioned methods to deal with reverse culture shock, hopefully you can grow and develop even further into a person who is more resilient to changes around you.


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