When you return

Reverse culture shock

Some students find that they need a period of adjustment when returning back to their home country.  Some experience difficulties readjusting to what were once familiar surrounding and relationships.  You may have an idealised view of home because you have missed it and are looking forward to going back.  You may also have the idea that nothing will have changed whilst you have been away i.e. an expectiation of total familiarity.  Returning home may fall short of your expectations.

How will this affect me?

It affects everyone differently depending on how familiar you were with your home country before you went, how long you have been away etc.  Difficulties with readjustment will vary widely from student to student.  Some may not have any difficulties at all and this may very much depend upon how integrated you have become in your host country.

Feelings you may experience:

Many students feel that they have become much more independent and have had a great deal more privacy whilst abroad and are scared that they will lose this when they return home.  Your family and friends may expect you to be the same as when you left but you may feel like a different person due to your experiences.  Your family and friends may have changed while you have been away.  Feelings that you may experience are:

  • Feelings of alienation
  • Frustration
  • A sense that there is a lack of interest from family and friends
  • Inconsistency between expectations and reality
  • Stages of reverse culture shock
  • Disengagement - begins before you leave.  
  • Saying goodbye to all your new friends and you begin to feel sad and reluctant to leave
  • Initial euphoria - you start to feel excited about returning home.  You are happy to see family and friends and they are happy to see you
  • Irritability and hostility - people start to not be as interested as you thought they would be about your study abroad stories.  You may experience feelings of alienation, loneliness, disorientation, depression and feeling like a stranger
  • Readjustment and adaption - things will gradually start to feel more normal and you may start to fall back in to some old routines.  You will start to incorporate the positives from your study abroad country with the positives from your life at home.

So how can I prepare for it and help myself?

You have already started, by being aware that reverse culture shock exists and then accepting that this is perfectly normal!  You can also:

  • Make sure you keep in contact with friends made whilst abroad
  • Discuss other students experience of returning home
  • Stay in contact with friends and family at home
  • Read magazines and newspapers from home

What now?

So now that you are aware of reverse culture shock, the important thing to do is not worry about it!  Concentrate on enjoying the positive aspect of being back at home and give yourself time to adjust.

You may wish to keep the study abroad experience alive by joining the Erasmus or International Societies here at Exeter.

If you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact the outbound team.