Before you left for your study abroad program in London or Dublin, you may have thought that differences between the US and the UK or Ireland would be minimal. After all, they speak English, right?! How different could it be! WRONG. Although the language is the same, there are different colloquialisms, phrases, cultural references, and sometimes even going to the grocery store can be a confusing and lengthy trip because the ingredients you want are called something else. You might have anticipated
By now you have been experiencing all the differences and similarities between two cultures you now have a bond to, and you have been passing through various stages of what is termed as ‘culture shock’. Now, as your departure draws closer, you will be entering the stage that is often the least expected and therefore can be the hardest to cope with: Reverse Culture Shock. You may be wondering how your experience fits in once you return home.
HOW IT COULD AFFECT YOU
You could find that relationships with family and friends have changed. You may feel that you have developed into a different person while you have been in London or Dublin and have new ideas and ways of thinking. Your family and friends, however, might expect you to be just the same as you were when you left and may find it difficult to accept the “new” you. Remember that members of your family and your friends may have changed too, and they may even resent that you have been away. All of these things could cause tension at home and make it difficult for you to re‐adjust.
When returning to your home institution, changes and developments may have occurred while you’ve been away and you may feel that you have lost touch or feel marginalized. Other students may envy you, be hostile towards you, or regard you suspiciously. They might even think that the skills you’ve gained while you’ve been away, such as changes in your dress, mannerisms, or speech are signs that you think that you are superior to them. They may also have unrealistic expectations of what you can achieve. You could also find that you feel frustrated by a return to old working practices and feel that you do not have the opportunity to put into practice the skills you’ve developed during your studies.
Customs and Ideas
When you return home you may find that it will take some time before certain customs and ideas become familiar again. A variety of areas could cause you difficulty, such as styles of dress, conversation, gender roles, preparing and serving food, timekeeping, and so on.
HOW CAN YOU PREPARE?
It helps just to be aware that reverse culture shock is a common reaction and that you may well experience it. Here are a few ideas for helping you to prepare for your return home:
- Make sure that you get the numbers and emails of friends and other people that you want to keep in touch with after you leave.
- Talk with other students who have returned home about their experiences.
- Talk to friends, Student Life staff, or RLS about your feelings about leaving.
- Start reading news from home
- Think about how you have changed and what you’ve gained from your time abroad
- When you arrive home, give yourself a few days to rest. If you feel you are tired, depressed or feel generally unwell, it may be due to the stress of change.
- Join FIE’s Facebook group to stay in touch with friends made here, and to share your feelings about leaving and/or how you feel about your study abroad experience in retrospect when you arrive home: FIE London , FIE Dublin
- Review FIE online and share photos, stories, and experiences with other potential students to help think through your own time abroad: GoOverseas, GoAbroad, Abroad101
- Finally – be as open‐minded and creative during re‐entry as you were whilst studying abroad. Integrate the new and the old you!