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Reverse Culture Shock
Olya Bezvushko

One of the biggest problems that can arise for students who participate in study abroad programs is the re-adapting complications. It can be problematically to re-enter the home country. Very often international students undergo numerous changes, re-examine their priorities and values, revise their own opinion of themselves and home country.

You will go through “culture shock” while adapting to a new culture, but the “reverse cultural shock” may be more difficult, and it is important to apply for help to get over it. 

Upon arrival to your home country, you may find things different from how you left them. After you have looked at your host country in a favorable light, you may become more critical against your native country. Unfortunately, reverse cultural shock may hit you in more ways than you would expect, starting from unpleasant language adjustments during a simple trip to the supermarket to a big depression.

Usually a study abroad student’s re-entry is characterized with idealizing view of home and the expectation of full familiarity, you will think that nothing have changed during your absence. You may think that you will be able to pick up exactly where you left of. A problem appears when you understand that reality doesn’t meet your expectations. Home may not correspond to what you have imagined: while you were away your friends and family continued to live their normal life, many things have happened in their lives and nobody seems to really care about your “when I was abroad” stories. This is one of the reasons of why home may be found so strange.

All this can result in mutual misunderstandings between you and your family and friends, frustrations and feeling of alienation. Of course it depends on your personality, but in general, the better you have integrated in your host country’s culture and lifestyle, the harder it is to readjust to everything after re-entry. 

There are 4 stages of reverse culture Shock:

     1. Disengagement. It begins in the host country before your leaving it. You begin to realize that it’s time to say good bye to your new friends and the place that became your home. The final shopping, good-bye parties, packing hustle make the feeling of sadness and frustration even worse. You can try to make your last few days so busy that they will fly by and you won’t have time to distract on your emotions and experiences.

     2. Initial euphoria begins in immediate proximity to departure and is characterized by feelings of excitement and expectation, up to euphoria, about returning home. It may be similar to the feeling you have experienced when you first came to the host country. You may be happy to meet your friends and family again. The length of this period may be different and usually finishes with the realization that people are not as interested in your foreign experiences as you have expected. They will listen to your stories with politeness, but you will soon see that they won’t mind to change the topic.  This is a transition to the next stage.

     3. Irritability and animosity. You may experience feelings of loneliness, frustration, helplessness, disappointment, ill-naturedness, disorientation and estrangement and you will not understand why it happened to you. The feeling like a stranger at home and the desire to go to the host country again   are common reactions too.  

     4. Readjustment and adaptation. Then you start to consider things more normal again, you will probably enter the routing way of life, but everything won’t be entirely the same like before. You may develop new attitudes, habits and beliefs, as well as new personal goals and you will look at things in a different way now. The best idea is to incorporate the positive aspects of your international experience with the positive aspects of your life at home.    

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