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.