Study Abroad Alumni
Returning Home and Reverse Culture Shock
Winthrop Academic Opportunities
Future International Opportunities
REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK
As excited as you are about coming home and talking about your experiences, some of you may be surprised that your family or friends don’t seem to share your enthusiasm. This is not because they don’t care or aren’t happy to have you back, but because you have just had a unique experience that they can’t understand. You have just spent a considerable amount of time away from home and campus experiencing a world outside of most people’s imagination. Although your family and friends will be delighted that you are home, you may feel that they lack interest in really understanding your experience.
This is the re-entry phase, a unique experience for every person. It is a process of readjustment that may be more difficult than the adjustment you made to your life in your host country. In some cases, the academic experience overseas that you are wrapping up provides a new perspective on your academic objectives. As a result, many students question or change their long-term goals.
Whatever your feelings are about returning home, know that this phase is a natural part of cultural learning and reflects the depth of your experience abroad. You will undoubtedly, throughout your life, continue to evaluate ideas and events in the context of the broader cultural perspective that you have acquired.
Tips for returning home (also see this article from Glimpse.com: http://matadornetwork.com/abroad/5-things-not-to-do-after-returning-from-abroad/):
- Be proud of your new insights, but don’t impose your cultural changes on others.
- Use diplomacy in raving about your host country. Avoid criticizing the US or comparing it to your host country.
- Seek out your good friends to share your joy and readjustment problems.
- Listen to those who have remained at home as they also have stories to tell.
- Consider the techniques you used to adjust to your host country and use those same strategies to adjust to being home.
- Answer questions, even silly ones, with your observations and real experiences. Maintain a sense of humor!
- Stay physically healthy since stress may cause you to be unduly tired, easily depressed or prone to illness.
- Spend time alone to sort out your feelings, set new goals/priorities, put things into perspective and separate lasting benefits from casual impressions.
- Meet with other returning students to share experiences and get advice on readjustment issues.
- Extend hospitality to international students, faculty/staff and visitors on campus.
- Keep up with developments in your host country.
- Seek the services of the counseling center on campus. Many students benefit from speaking to someone about the difficulties they may be experiencing upon return.
One of the best parts of an overseas experience for most students is the lasting friendships that you have made with folks in your host country. Write to your new friends. Invite them to visit you in the US or travel with you to other parts of the world. Make every effort to maintain the gift of their friendship as this is something you can nurture and cherish for the rest of your life.
Winthrop University hosts a Re-Entry Workshop for all recently returned study abroad students early in the semester of your return. The Re-Entry workshop is a great opportunity to meet other students who have studied abroad, share stories, talk about adjusting back to life at Winthrop, and discuss ideas for using your international experience in future endeavors.
WINTHROP ACADEMIC OPPORTUNITIES
Consider incorporating international experience formally into your academic career by becoming an International Studies (INST) minor. For more information, see the International Studies Minor website, or descriptions of the Interdisciplinary Minors.
FUTURE INTERNATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
- Peace Corps- The Peace Corps selects graduates from all disciplines to serve abroad in a variety of capacities.
- Graduate School Abroad- Most foreign universities offer graduate (often called postgraduate) programs and are open to US students. You can earn advanced degrees in almost any field from art to science to business abroad.
- Scholarships for graduate study and research abroad- There are several competitive scholarships that fund graduate study and/or research abroad. Examples include the Marshall, Mitchell, and Rhodes Scholarships. Information on these opportunities is centrally maintained on the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards (ONCA) website.
- Careers in the Foreign Service with the State Department- Foreign Service Officers staff the 265 American embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions around the world.
- BUNAC- Check out the BUNAC website for work, volunteer, and teaching opportunities abroad. Most opportunities are 6-24 months in length.