Returning Home After Your Experience Abroad: Challenges & Solutions

Returning home after your experience abroad can be challenging. The re-entry culture shock may be even more “shocking” than the culture shock of your host country/culture. This information will help you ease your way back into your home community. Much like when you left your home to go abroad, you must also give yourself some time to re-adjust back into your life here. Remember, this is a common experience for all sojourners, so allow yourself to be challenged and also reflect on your experiences positively- from traveling abroad to returning home.

Re-entry Challenges:

  1. Boredom and Restlessness: After an exciting and stimulating time abroad, returning to family, friends, and old routines can seem dull. It is natural to miss the excitement and challenges which characterize the study abroad experience. Challenge yourself academically and socially, and gradually strike a balance between your life at Florida State and Tallahassee and your international interests.
  2. Reverse Homesickness: Home is supposed to be familiar and comfortable. However, after spending a substantial amount of time in another country, coming home may not be as easy as you thought it might be. It is natural to miss the people, places, attitudes or lifestyles that you grew accustomed to in your host country. Try to alleviate these feelings of loss by keeping in contact with people you have met abroad and keeping your international interests alive at Florida State.
  3. No One Wants to Hear: Your family and friends may not be interested in hearing about all of your adventures and observations abroad. Remember that they are not rejecting you or your achievements. You just need to be realistic in your expectations of how fascinating your journey is going to be for anyone, and remember that they may not be able to relate to your experiences.
  4. Relationships Have Changed: After a long period of separation, people often need to renegotiate relationships and adjust to being together again. Just as you have altered some of your ideas and attitudes while abroad, the people at home are likely to have experienced some changes, too. Flexibility and openness are important qualities in successfully developing "new" relationships with relatives and old friends.
  5. Identity Issues: Some students feel unsure of how to integrate their "old" and "new" selves. Feeling frustrated about the lack of opportunities to apply recently acquired social, linguistic and practical coping skills is also common. Be creative, be patient and above all use intercultural adjustment skills to assist in your own re-entry.
  6. Compartmentalization of Experience: Returnees often worry that they will "lose" their international experiences. Memories and experiences are not souvenir objects that you take out occasionally and look at. Keep your study abroad experience alive by maintaining contacts with friends and host families abroad, talking to people who have experiences similar to yours, pursuing the interests and using the skills you developed when you were abroad.

Adapted by Aleks Nesic, from "Welcome Home: Managing Reentry or Reverse Culture Shock" by Alice Wu and "The Top Ten Immediate Re-entry Challenges," by Dr. Bruce LaBrack.

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