After Study Abroad

Reverse Culture Shock

Reverse culture shock is a way of describing the difficulties that many students have in readjusting to their home, resuming relationships with friends and family, and getting back into the routine of school and other activities upon return from an education abroad experience. Like culture shock, it is oftener experienced as a sometimes volatile set of emotional ups and downs that can be bewildering to the student who is experiencing it, as well as to those around him. As with culture shock, reverse culture shock varies a great deal from student to student. Some students are completely happy, even relieved to be home again, and experience very little, if any, reverse culture shock. Others may find it extremely difficult to get back into their routine and may take a long time to readjust. It depends a lot on the student, and the nature and length of the experience abroad, as well as other factors.

Reverse culture shock is another normal and natural part of the study abroad experience. Much of what the student may find difficult in the readjustment period has to do with important personal, emotional, and intellectual growth he has experienced and intellectual growth he has experienced, and learning he has done while abroad. He may feel he is a different person than the one who left, and may feel frustrated with being treated by friends and family like someone he no longer feels he is, and doesn’t want to be.

He may feel disappointed that no one really understands the depth and intensity of the experience he has gone through, and– worse– no one seems interested enough to really listen to him talk about his experiences. He may feel “homesickness” for the study abroad location he has left behind, or unhappy about returning to aspects of life at home that he may not have liked in the first place and likes even less now.

You can help your student through this period by listening to him, showing genuine interest in hearing about his experiences and urging him to incorporate his study abroad experience into his present and future life in ways that he finds attractive. Encourage him to maintain contact with the friends he made while abroad, both American students and foreign ones. If he talks about wanting to study abroad again, encourage him to search for opportunities that will fit into his career goals and objectives.


Academic and Career Development

Some students return from study abroad with vastly changed ideas about what they want to do in their careers and in their lives. If this is the case with your student, listen to her and see if you can help her find a to a practical and satisfying conclusion. Getting to know oneself better and finding or solidifying career goals are two main benefits of study abroad. If her experience abroad has caused a change in her career plans, she may have to earn additional credits before graduating, and this may mean extra semesters. But is that really so bad? Isn’t it worth the extra time spent now if it results in her career satisfaction over a lifetime?

Increasingly, businesses look as study abroad as a positive item on a student’s resume. However, they are also increasingly interested in knowing exactly what skills and abilities the student acquired through their study abroad, and less impressed with a mere listing of the fact that the student has studied abroad. The Office of Education Abroad offers several different programs that teach return study abroad students how to market their experiences effectively. More information can be found here [LINK]


Taken from What Parents Need to Know! Before, During and After Education Abroad, Janet Hulstrand, courtesy of NAFSA