It is common for students to express dissatisfaction or frustration with their home culture after a study abroad program. Most often, students find relationships are strained because they have changed in significant ways and their friends have not. Some experience overwhelming sadness because they miss their new friends, the novel experiences they had almost daily, or their favorite food. Some students express boredom, assert that their life has become quite ordinary, and suggest that he or she spend time abroad again.

The Office of Global Education helps students with their transition back to HPU. Some strategies are discussed in pre-departure meetings. Other strategies are available after returning to campus. It is important for students to recognize the personal signs and symptoms of reverse culture shock and to seek out assistance from the Office of Global Education, Counseling Services, and other sources of support.

 

What is Reverse Culture Shock?

Reverse culture shock, also known as re-entry shock, is similar to the culture shock that you experienced when you first entered into your host culture. Some students, however, say that the readjustment to their home culture can be more difficult than the adjustment to their host culture.

How long and how strongly a student experiences reverse culture shock can depend on multiple factors, such as length of time away, previous travel abroad, and frequency of communication with people back home while abroad. Students and parents alike should be prepared for a re-acclimation period and should be patient with one another. Reverse culture shock has three phases:

  • Honeymoon– During this phase, you are excited to be at home and other people are happy to have you back. Your friends and family are interested to hear about your time abroad and see your photos.
  • Alienation– In this stage, you’ll feel that people would rather talk about what happened to them while you were away than listen to your stories. You may start to feel bored because your familiar environment does not seem as exciting as your study abroad program was. You may feel like a foreigner in your own home. Your perspectives and interests have broadened and may be different than they used to be, and your lifestyle may have changed to accommodate those new perspectives.
  • Gradual Readjustment– Gradually, you will readjust to being at home. The shock of returning does dissipate with time and patience.

The best way to approach re-entry is to expect that there will be differences. People, home or abroad, will have changed with time. Part of the re-entry process will include finding a new lifestyle to combine the best of your old lifestyle and your new lifestyle.

Do not hesitate to reach out to your academic advisor, the Office of Global Education, Counseling Services, or other sources of support should you need to. We understand that readjustment is a process. Those of us who have studied abroad previously have been through this adjustment period and are happy to speak with you about your transition.

Visit the Ways to Get Involved page to view other strategies for transitioning to your home culture and HPU and for remaining engaged in your host culture.

Your study abroad experience is something that you’ll continue to learn from and use as you finish your studies at HPU and transition to the next phase(s) of your life. As you process your experience, you’ll begin to draw examples from your time abroad that will help you as you apply to graduate school or new career opportunities. We suggest you take the time while you’re still at HPU to organize these thoughts, process relatable examples, and learn to effectively communicate your time abroad.

Contact the Office of Career & Internship Services. They can offer resources to help students identify professional skills in a study abroad experience and discuss scenarios in interviews and on the résumé. With such a powerful experience, don’t miss out on how to put those new-found skills to use in your career both before and after hire.

There are numerous ways to remain involved with your study abroad experience following your return to HPU. Consider the following:

Meet international students at HPU

Get engaged with the international community and various other internationally-focused groups and activities at HPU. You’ll be able to meet international students studying at HPU for their full degree or for a semester/year exchange. You also could become a conversation partner to help students learning English as a second or other language.

Become a Global Education Mentor

A great way to stay involved with your study abroad experience and find deeper engagement with the international community at HPU is to become a Global Education Mentor (GEM).

GEMs help the Office of Global Education in many ways, especially as being a welcoming friend and mentor to our new international students. GEMs greet students upon their arrival to HPU, helping them to adjust to the HPU campus and community, oftentimes forming lasting friendships with their mentee. GEMs participate in Global Education events designed only for our international students and their mentors, as well as globally-minded events open to the campus community. Occasionally, GEMs help promote studying abroad by sharing their experiences with other students, prospective students, and families through the Office of Admissions events, Coffee Hour chats, and the Study Abroad Fair.

Upon your return to High Point University, you’ll receive information about how to apply to become a Global Education Mentor.

Consider participating in another study abroad program

If you enjoyed your time abroad, you could consider studying abroad again while at HPU for either a semester, a summer, or on a Global Experience or Maymester program. You also could consider an international internship or graduate schooling abroad.

Participate in other international opportunities post graduation

Consider other opportunities that will keep you involved after you leave HPU: