Re-entry Shock

The information below may be helpful in coming to terms with this beast. Perhaps the one thing to keep in mind through all of this is: You have had an amazing experience—you've seen places and done things that most people will never see or do—and it was YOUR experience! It is deeply personal, and precisely for that reason you cannot hope to make others understand what you went through and are now going through.

Coming home is a period of adjustment to your home culture and of the integration into your life of what you have learned abroad. Students cope with reentry at various levels:

1.) Family

You may be expected to fit back into your family but find it difficult to communicate effectively because your family has not shared your experiences overseas. Your family may have difficulty adjusting to your new-found independence and changed values.

Strategies:

Share your experience with your family (slides, stories, etc.) and let them know how much you appreciate the opportunity they have given you to grow in new ways.

2.) Friends

You and your friends may no longer be as close as you once were. You need to be sensitive about discussing your experience with them. You may also miss the friends you made overseas.

Strategies:

Ask about and listen to what they have experienced while you were away. Ask to be brought up to date on local events. Try and do new things together to get the relationship on a new footing.

3.) School

You may see your campus in a new light. You may also miss the feeling of being part of a close-knit group of students.

Strategies:

Talk over your academic experience with your advisor, especially if you are considering new career goals. Seek out the Center for International Programs to find out about meeting international students on campus. Talk with the study abroad advisor about volunteering to spend time with students who are planning to study abroad. Seek out other students who have studied abroad—you are not alone!

4.) Country

Your home culture may no longer be entirely to your liking and you may have the sense that you no longer fit in. In the future you will probably continue to evaluate ideas and events in the context of the broader cultural perspective you have acquired.

Strategies:

Come to terms with the fact that we all tend to look past the shortcomings of our home culture when we are away, and to criticize it on the basis of changed perspectives when we return. Make friends with interest in international or intercultural affairs. Keep up with news of your host country through reading newspapers, magazines, etc.

5.) Self

You have become accustomed to ha high level of activity and anticipation that your home and campus cannot possibly match. You may feel restless or a bit depressed for a while after you return.

Strategies:

Recuperate from the physical journey. Think over the ways you have changed: What did you learn about yourself? How have your family and friends reacted? Keep a journal so that you can see how your thoughts evolve over time. Talk with other returning students who may feel the same way.

Study Abroad
Student Center, Room 102
Ball State University
Muncie, IN 47306

Hours: Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Summer hours 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Phone: 765-285-5422
Fax: 765-285-3710
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