Today on GoAbroad we feature a post from guest blogger, Daniela Baker, where she writes from the student perspective about overcoming reverse culture shock after studying abroad. Also keep in mind that your campus study abroad office and advisors will be there to answer questions, address concerns and help you to overcome reverse culture shock! They are there for YOUR benefit and will help to make the best of your study abroad experience, from beginning to end!
When you first prepare to go abroad, whether you're traveling to an English speaking country or a completely different country, you probably have a few ways in mind to deal with culture shock. If you're traveling abroad as a student, chances are likely that you'll even attend a seminar or listen to a talk about culture shock and how you can overcome it and deal with it.
Another issue to worry about, though, is reverse culture shock – which occurs when you come home to your own culture, and that affects a wide number of students. Before you go abroad, have a plan in place to deal with reverse culture shock on coming home. Here are a few concrete ways you can deal with reverse culture shock after your time abroad.
Prepare For It
Reverse culture shock comes as a complete surprise for many study abroad students because they simply aren't expecting the phenomenon. They've been prepared for culture shock on entering their host culture, but they never imagine that they'll have the same experience upon coming home. Just understanding that this is a probability is key to dealing with culture shock.
One thing to remember is that the longer you're immersed in a culture and the more it varies it is from your home culture, the stronger this reverse culture shock will probably be. It could be a seemingly trivial task, such as adjusting to the United States all-plastic lifestyle of paying for groceries instead of the Riyal. Americans who study abroad in England might experience a few strange things – like not remembering which way to look when crossing the street – but their reverse culture shock will be quite different from students who spent time in, say, Saudi Arabia, where the culture and language are completely different from those at home. It could even impact how you socialize. For instance, you wouldn't openly communicate with your classmates on Facebook and Twitter in China (it's blocked) -- you would use 51, RenRen and Sina's Weibo.
Also, students who study abroad for one summer or semester are also likely to have varying types of reverse culture shock compared to those who study abroad for an entire year. However, even if you're in a somewhat similar culture for a shorter amount of time, expect to experience at least a little reverse culture shock on coming home.
Give Yourself Time
The most important thing that you can do to deal with reverse culture shock is to simply give yourself time when you get home. If you've been away for months, it will be tempting to run around and try to see all your family and friends within a few days of getting home. This, though, is a big mistake, and you'll probably find yourself quickly fatigued and even irritable if you try this route.
Give yourself at least a few days to get re-acclimated and to overcome jet lag before you attend a huge coming home party - this might be a hard to resist, especially if you just came back from a dry country for a year. Take it as an opportunity to evaluate the sobering facts behind alcohol consumption and college life.
Instead, make time for the most important people when you get home. Your friends and family members may assume that you want to see everyone and do everything you can on first arriving home, so it's important to set boundaries ahead of time and to explain to them why these boundaries are necessary.
Understand That Things Will Have Changed
Even if you were only gone for two or three months, expect some things to have changed when you get home. One of the main problems with reverse culture shock is that when we're abroad for a period of time, we create an idealized version of home in which everything is exactly how we left it – and is a perfect version of how we left it, as well.
Keeping up with friends and family members while you're abroad will help. If you're in college, chances are likely that there will be new interpersonal relationships between friends, and your family might make changes to your home that you don't expect at first, either. Knowing about these changes ahead of time might help, but so will simply understanding that things will have changed in ways you don't necessarily expect.
Embrace Your Emotions
Often times, the most confusing part of reverse culture shock is the mishmash of feelings that goes with it. You're probably elated to be going home, especially if you've left lots of friends and loved ones behind for a long period of time. However, you're probably also sad to be leaving the new "family" and friends you've found in your host country. You might feel completely exhausted when you get home, and you'll probably also feel a vague uneasiness as you settle back into your old way of life and come to terms with how your time abroad has changed you personally. Besides all this, you might feel that same sense of clashing you did when first settling into your new culture, which happens when you start to notice minor cultural differences that you hadn't expected but that can have a big impact on the way you "do life" in another country.
The key here is to just accept your feelings for what they are. Don't feel guilty for missing parts of your abroad experience, especially the friends you made while gone. Don't try to force yourself to be happy just to please other people, but be honest about your feelings. This is the quickest way to work through them and to integrate them into your overall experience abroad.
Studying abroad is one of the most enriching possible experiences for college students, but it's even more so if you're prepared for it. Don't just prepare for the original sense of culture shock on entering your host culture, though. Also, take time to understand and prepare yourself for the sense of reverse culture shock you'll probably get when coming home.
Check out more ways to study abroad at GoAbroad.com!