NOTE: *Make sure to check out the first post in this series– “Culture Shock and How to Deal with It Abroad” – if you haven’t already!*
After returning home from my semester aboard in Italy, I could not wait to tell my friends and family all about my travels and experiences. When I got back to Idaho, however, it seemed like no one wanted to hear about my semester aboard while I didn’t want to hear about their (boring) American experiences. It took me some time to understand that I was dealing with reverse culture shock and that readjustment to American life – after being aboard – takes time, but luckily my host school provided us with some information on the topic. Here is my definition of reverse culture shock, and how to cope when you arrive back home.
What is Reverse Culture Shock?
Reverse culture shock is very similar to the shock you feel when you arrive in a foreign country. It, too, has four steps but can sometimes be harder to overcome than culture shock abroad. Reverse culture shock is defined by these four stages:
- Initial euphoria: you are very excited about returning home, seeing your friends and family, and telling them about your time abroad.
- Disengagement: you start to realize that your home country is very different than your host country. You may not like these differences and become bored, confused or frustrated in re-learning the ways of your home country.
- Irritability and hostility: you get angry, frustrated or lonely because your friends and family can’t relate to your experiences, and how you have changed and grown as a person.
- Readjustment and adaptation: eventually, you readjust to your home and your everyday life. You start to incorporate what you have learned while aboard into your life at home, combining your experiences and cultures of your host and home country.
How Do I Cope with It?
Although there are many different strategies to help cope with reverse culture shock, I found one tip that really helped me when I returned home. The first was creating a scrapbook with pictures, souvenirs, and ticket stubs from my host country and the other places I had traveled. This allowed me to share my experiences with everyone who wanted to see it but also allows me to go back and relive my semester abroad whenever I’m feeling nostalgic. I also wrote down everything I went and did in a journal so I can reference the list for future trips or to help out friends and family with their abroad adventures. Make sure to keep a record of your travels as well as any souvenirs, so you can re-live your time abroad. I promise it’s worth all of the hard work!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jolie Blair is a rising senior at Emory University from Sun Valley, Idaho. She is double majoring in Theater Studies and Public Health and has a passion for the arts, writing, and traveling. She studied abroad for the 2016 fall semester in Rome, Italy and had an experience of a lifetime, which she loves to share with those who want to listen (and even those who don’t like her 140lb Great Dane!).