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The Stages Of Reverse Culture Shock

So, you just spent a few months or a year experiencing a different culture(s), making incredible, life-long friends, eating amazing food, and seeing the wonders of the world. And now, you have just arrived home into the world that once seemed so mundane and regular… but now feels different in ways that you just can’t put your finger on. What’s next?

When you first return home from traveling or a semester abroad, it is completely normal to feel out of place and like you are a foreigner in a strange land – especially after you grew so accustomed to literally being that foreigner in a new land.

When it becomes stressful and difficult to re-adjust to life at home, it is called “re-entry shock”, or reverse culture shock. This phenomenon is much like culture shock, when you become stressed and find it difficult to adjust to life in a new culture. Just as it takes time to adjust to the new culture and customs when you travel, once returning home, the same process can occur. It can take time to adjust to your former culture and customs.

Just like culture shock, there are a few different stages of reverse culture shock. It begins in the honey moon stage, where you are so excited to come back home, see family and friends, and eat all of the home-food you missed (or was appropriated) during your time abroad. But then, the magic begins to fade. You may begin to notice that your home, the people around you, and especially yourself, have changed.

This gives way to the next part of re-entry shock: the crisis phase. Here, you may begin to experience some intense emotions, such as frustration, irritability, and loneliness. These are a completely normal part of re-adjusting. It is understandable that you may feel these, considering no one at home could ever understand what you experienced and the way you changed. You may even become “homesick” for your home elsewhere.

But worry not, because before too long, you will reach the recovery and adjustment phase. It may take some time to find this, but eventually, you will adjust to being back home, and your life will feel normal once more.

While the idea of reverse culture shock may seem very intimidating and inevitable, there are definitely some steps you can take to make the adjustment between life abroad and life at home much easier. One of the best things you can do is mentally prepare yourself for the emotions you will feel when you arrive home. Being aware of the phenomenon and the stages of it could quicken the pace of the adjustment and help you manage it much easier.

Staying in close contact with your friends from your time abroad can be very helpful as well. It is easier to transition when people close to you are also transitioning. They may be hundreds of miles away, but luckily, with the magic of technology, it can be so easy to call up your best study abroad friend and say: “Hey, I’m just having a hard time adjusting to life back home and wanted to see how you’re doing.” Also, finding a community of students who have also returned home from study abroad, or students who have experienced re-entry shock already, may help. It can make the transition much easier to find people who you can relate to.

Most importantly, remember that most people experience re-entry shock when they return home. It is a completely normal process, and you will adjust eventually. Just remember that it may take time. It may be incredibly difficult and lonely, but many people experience this. Finding communities (like Rakbo!) where others have experienced can help make the transition much easier.

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Allyson

Allyson is a junior at the University of Akron in Ohio, USA. She is pursuing a Bachelor's degree in media production with a minor in anthropology. Allyson kicked off her dream of traveling around the world with Semester at Sea during the Fall 2016 Voyage. She visited 11 countries throughout Europe, Africa, and Latin America. Some of her life goals include road-tripping the entire length of the Pan-American Highway and living on a kibbutz in Israel. Her dream career is to travel around the world making documentaries. To her, the best parts of traveling are learning new things from other people, and constantly hunting for the best cup of coffee in the entire world.


2 comments

  1. I really experienced this when I returned from my ERASMUS destination. I reazlied how much fun it really was and suddenly coming home, going ‘back to normal’ was difficult. I still miss the enthusiasm of my ERASMUS friends, that ‘let’s go do something’ vibe. That summer I had no job and had to get used again to living with my parents.

  2. I felt the same way when I came back from a year abroad in Japan. At first I was really happy to be back and see everyone again, but quickly you realise that everything just goes back to “normal”. I really miss the Japanese culture and food, and the friends I made there. Abroad, it seemed like there was something to do every day, whereas back home, you tend to fall back into a rut. So that’s why for the upcoming school year I volunteered to help international students in my city by organising activities and stuff 🙂 Also, thank God for technology, so I can stay in contact with my friends abroad 🙂

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