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Reverse culture shock
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Welcome backEveryone at KEI hopes that you had a memorable academic, cultural, and social experience abroad. We realize that returning home can often be as difficult as going away. You may be experiencing reverse culture shock, wondering about your future, looking for a job to pay unexpected expenses, trying to stay connected and in touch with your host culture, or thinking about studying abroad again. We look forward to helping you re-adjust to life at home.
Reverse culture shockAre you feeling different, now that you are home? Do you experience the feeling of unfamiliarity in places that should be familiar; a feeling of discomfort with people who are close to you; or, a feeling of inadequacy when dealing with common situations? If you are nodding shaking your head yes, then the most likely the cause of these feelings is re-entry shock. In other words, re-entry shock is experiencing a sense of disorientation or feeling of being out of place upon your return home. What is reverse culture shock? Re-entry shock, often referred to as reverse culture shock or re-entry transition stress, is the shock of being home after an extended period abroad. Often, re-entry shock can be far worse than the culture shock you experience abroad. When you are abroad, you expect to feel foreign. Coming home, you expect to feel safe and familiar. However, things are not the same. You have grown as a person, your views have changed, and your outlook on life has been reshaped by your experiences. You also find that your family and friends have changed; you missed important events at home and on campus; and others have taken your place in clubs and social groups. Even the political and social climate of your home country may have undergone changes.
When this shock does occur, as it does for most in some form or another, it can make you feel extremely unsettled, isolated, insecure and alone. It can spark an emotional chain of reactions, ranging from disengagement to euphoria to alienation, and gradually, to readjustment. Like culture shock, it has a cycle which must be worked through. Re-entry shock can last mere weeks, or may stretch for months, even years.
The key to minimizing re-entry shock is acknowledging its existence, and realizing that there may be frustrations with readjusting to life in your home country. These frustrations are a normal part of your study abroad experience.
Do I have re-entry shock?? If you answer yes to two or more of the following questions, chances are that you are experiencing reverse culture shock.
"Everything at home looks foreign."
"Americans have too many material possessions."
"Americans are not concerned with the environment."
"I miss my new friends."
"I miss the relaxed lifestyle abroad."
"I miss the food abroad."
"My friends and family are not interested in my stories."
"No one wants to see my pictures."
"I have grown a great deal."
"I feel like a different person."
"My experience seems surreal, as if it never happened."
"I have a difficult time adjusting to my campus."
It is important to remember that these reactions are normal, even expected. You are not alone! And, there are steps you can take to relieve re-entry shock.
What are the four stages of re-entry shock?? Keep in mind that reverse culture shock is a transition with distinct stages. You may encounter all or none of the feelings described in the four stages of reverse culture shock.
What can I do to relieve re-entry shock?? To start with, be aware of re-entry shock and realize that it is normal. Do not expect things to be the same when you return. Things change, you have changed, people you know have changed, and it will take time to readjust.
Contact us! We want to help, and each of us has been through what you're experiencing.
What else can I do to decrease reverse culture shock?? Do not resist adjusting to your home country. Many students think that if they allow themselves to become fully integrated in the "old" lifestyle they will somehow detract from their experience abroad. This is not true. Your experience abroad will always be a part of your life and shape your future growth as a person.
Take a moment to think of how friends and family may perceive you. Keep in mind that you are not the only one who changed as a person. Your family and friends have also grown while you were away.
Put yourself in the place of others. Those who stayed behind may feel threatened by you or jealous of your experience. They may resent that you had an opportunity that they didn't have, or they passed up a similar opportunity. You may make them feel inadequate or inferior by all you have seen and done.
Unintentionally, your excitement may leave the impression that you are the only one who has an interesting life. Friends and family sometimes feel rejected and unappreciated if you carry on about how wonderful everything was in your life abroad.
You should inform friends and family about reverse culture shock, and how it may influence your relationship with them. Take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. Most students experience some stress readjusting to home life.
Where can I find more information about reverse culture shock? If you are looking for more information about culture shock and re-entry shock, the following sources are a good start:
Phone: 1.212.931.9953 | Toll Free: 1.800.831.5095 | Fax: 1.212.528.2095
48 Broadway, Suite 2, Haverstraw, New York, 10927 USA
info@KEIabroad.org | webmaster@KEIabroad.org
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