Helping Your Student with Reverse Culture Shock
Some students find that readjusting to their families, friends, and the US is as difficult as adjusting to other cultures. Families should realize that students will have changed due to their experiences. The readjustment phase takes time, and families should also have patience when helping students to reorient themselves. Call the Study Abroad Office if you have questions and concerns about your student’s readjustment.
Kelly Holland, Study Abroad Coordinator, talks about the challenges of re-entry
Encourage Your Student to Get Involved
The process of re-entry is not easy. One of the ways we help students come back to Eastern's campus is through our student organization, the Study Abroad Society. Managed by returning students, the group schedules various events throughout the academic year, where fellow travelers can share stories and compare notes on their time overseas. For more information on our Study Abroad Society, watch our calendar for upcoming events and check out the student webpage.
Students may also apply for a Peer Advisor position in our office. Additional information on current openings can be found in our From the Office section.
The Office of Study Abroad works with Career Services to offer resume workshops and mock interviews. One of the most important factors of study abroad is being able to articulate the skills and knowledge learned while overseas. Students are encouraged to contact Career Services for additional one on one counseling, or make an appointment with our office to talk about the possibility of working abroad.
Nine Tips for Welcoming Returnees Home
- Understand that "reverse culture shock" is a real possibility and learn to recognize its symptoms so you can offer appropriate support to the returnees.
- Realize that returning home is often not a predictable process and can be more stressful than either the returnee or you anticipate. Be prepared to offer support long-distance as she/he anticipates coming home and especially after his or her return.
- Understand that most returnees are, in some ways, different than they were before they left home. They may initially seem to be "strangers." It is hard to know what their experiences have meant to them and how they have changed. It may be necessary to "renegotiate" your relationship with returnees, but your history together will provide a basis for this process.
- Be aware of your own expectations of the returnees. You may wish that they would just "fit back in," but it is helpful if you avoid forcing the returnees into old roles and relationships. Allow them space and time to readjust and reconnect.
- Be conscious of all those things that have changed at home. Help returnees to understand what has taken place both in the society and among friends and family. Even if they have heard about these events, the impact at home may not have been obvious. You have much to tell them and they can tell you how events at home looked from their overseas location.
- Avoid criticism, sarcasm, or mockery for seemingly odd patterns of behavior, speech, or new attitudes.
- Create opportunities for the returnees to express their opinions, tell their stories, show their pictures. Listen carefully and try to understand the significance of their overseas experiences. Seek to know what is important to them.
- Acknowledge that all returnees experience some sense of loss. Strange as it may seem to others, returnees often grieve for what they have left behind. They may be missing overseas friends, a stimulating environment, the feeling of being special, experiencing greater freedoms or responsibilities, or special privileges.
- Encourage the returnees to maintain personal and professional contacts with friends and institutions in the former host country(s). They will regret it if they do not.
© 2001 Adapted by Bruce La Brack and Margaret D. Pusch from a handout originally created by Dr. Peter Stadler, Solothurn, Switzerland, for distribution at the SIETAR Congress, Munich, Germany, 1996.