Just come back from studying abroad? This can be an exciting time with unexpected ups and downs. Immediately, you find joy from the comforts of home and the things you missed so much while you were gone. Yet, overtime that excitement and joy can be replaced with disappointment and frustration. Maybe friends and family aren’t as interested as you would like them to be, and are less willing to listen to your stories. Your new insights, experiences, and enthusiasm seem undervalued. Then you have to face the uncertainty of the next steps of your life.
Do not panic! Re-entry adjustment is the final phase of your intercultural experience. Whether you were studying or volunteering abroad or backpacking through the Pyrenees, this is a common and necessary stage. Just as you may have experienced culture shock in the early or mid-phases of your time abroad, it is equally common to come home and struggle to re-adjust to your old, yet new, environment.
Home seems to be exactly the same, but you are not. Going abroad can be life-changing so the challenge to coming home is being the new you in the same old place. There are some things you can to do make the re-entry adjustment go smoother (but you can’t avoid it altogether, sorry!):
- Share your stories with others who have been abroad or post a blog offering tips and suggestion for those who may be going abroad in the future.
- Consider the impact of your experience on your academic and professional goals, and set new goals and objectives to pursue.
- Stay connected with the friends, contacts and organizations from abroad. This network can be essential not only to your re-adjustment, but future opportunities.
- Continue to use or practice the language or special skills you learned while away.
- Get involved with organizations, clubs or groups locally that need your new skills.
- Reflect on the impact of your experience on your own cultural identity; how you have changed; explore your new worldview and values through journaling, a diary or blog.
Any combination should offer relief. Be patient with those around you, they were not as fortunate as you to travel. And remember that you can be the new you at home, it’ll just take some time to create a new “normal”.
If you find your adjustment period dragging on then intercultural coaching is an option. Tharani, a UVic Student, returned from Ethiopia feeling both “inspired and discouraged”. She said, “Coaching was immediately positive; it was reassuring to know that my conflicted emotions were not irrational. Discussing my global experiences enabled me to apply the skills I gained in Ethiopia to work and interactions in Canada.”If you’re interested in coaching click here!
(Resource: Handbook of Intercultural Training by Landis, Bennett, et al)