Reverse culture shock will occur when you come back to the United States and to Wheaton. Friends have had different experiences, which may have changed them, as well. It may take some effort to reconnect and you may find yourself experiencing a level of homesickness for your international friends and places.
Wheaton plans activities to assist with the transition back to campus. You are encouraged to sign up to become a Global Peer Advisor, a rewarding way to share your experiences with other students. Also, don’t forget to attend the Welcome Back Dinner. These are great ways to ease your transition back to campus. There are so many ways to integrate your new skills and worldly interests into the community — it’s important to keep your study abroad experience alive!
The return home from abroad may be an experience that students expect will be easy. Often the bigger shock for students is the unexpected changes that occur when they return home. It is this experience that we describe as Re-entry Shock. This transition involves reconnections with friends and family, reintegration into Wheaton life, as well as making connections between the new person you have become and your old lifestyle. The following sections will describe some strategies to help you with the lifelong process of Re-entry.
There are a variety of challenges that you will confront upon your return to campus. It is important to connect with other study abroad returnees to share the rewards and challenges of returning home.
- “No one wants to hear my stories, experiences, photos, etc…”
- You can’t explain what the study abroad experience was like for you in just one sentence
- Reverse home sickness
- Relationships have changed
- People are misunderstood
- Feelings of alienation from friends and family
- Inability to apply new knowledge or skills to your present life
- Compartmentalization or loss of the experience
(from Bruce LaBrack, School of International Studies, University of the Pacific, Stockton, CA, 1993.)
Strategies for Re-entry Shock
- Know that reverse culture shock/reentry shock is something that everyone returning from study abroad will experience at some level.
- Acknowledge that saying goodbye to friends/host family/faculty from your study abroad is difficult.
- Connect with other returnees by getting together to share your experience and involve yourself in ways where you can share your new skills.
- Remember that people will have varying levels of interest in your study abroad experience – but that the Center for Global Education always wants to hear your stories!
- Be aware that you may need to renegotiate relationships with family, friends, and significant others.
- Try to find ways to get back to your country or region.
- Look at the campus with new eyes! Use some of those skills that helped you transition into your new country.
- Stay physically and mentally fit.
- Reflect on your experience periodically through a journal, class discussions, class projects, and extracurricular opportunities.
- Be patient with yourself and others. It is not easy for you to return to Wheaton or for others to see how you have changed and grown in different ways.