Bummed about going home after being abroad?
Worried about reverse culture shock?
Wondering what life after an amazing experience abroad will be like?
I know exactly how you feel! I struggled with re-entry, too. So I asked the SPS community to share their tips for going home after being abroad and navigating reverse culture shock in re-entry.
Tip #1 Self Awareness is Key in Re-Entry
Feeling confused or frustrated during re-entry is a normal experience. It’s important to let yourself feel these emotions, but not to drown in them. Be aware of your feelings and use them to figure out what’s important to you. Reflecting on your experiences can lead to amazing things! – Ellen Freij
Tip #2 Find Your Re-Entry Community
Make sure that you have a solid community supporting you and if you can, try to connect with others who have been abroad. Whether that’s in your town, state, or over the internet. Find like-minded people that can relate to your experiences and know what you are feeling. I also found journaling and writing to be really helpful as well. Write down how you’re feeling and the things you are experiencing. Not only is it helpful, but I also found it to be really fun to read through my past experiences a year or two later. -Betsy Ramser
Tip #3 Stop Worrying About the Past
Don’t regret the path not taken; it takes up energy better spent planning your next steps. Once I stopped worrying about what I hadn’t done and started fully acknowledging the amazing things I had been able to do since being home, I was able to consider my next steps very intentionally. It has led to some interesting new work opportunities and the decision to write a series of books with my husband that incorporates our love of travel, adventure, and social good. When we travel, we now travel with a purpose. – Stormy Sweitzer
Tip #4 Share Your Experiences After Returning From Abroad
Find a way to connect with other people who have gone abroad. You will need some sort of support system and a way to talk about what you’re going through with people who are going through the same thing or have gone through it in the past. Also, Use your travels and experiences to do something meaningful. For example, start a blog or write a guest post for someone else’s blog, or maybe even start a club or Meetup group. Do things that will keep you active in a positive way. – Alexa Hart
Tip #5 Process Your Reverse Culture Shock With Others
Process what you’re feeling. Understanding what you experience after your trip is as much a part of the trip as the sightseeing. Re-entry helps you recognize how your trip impacted you and your life and how you can accept it as such. – McKay Roozen
Tip #6 Reflect On Your Time Abroad
Realizing you are not alone is a big one. Find the support you need and the outlet that works best for you to reflect on the experience. I don’t think there’s any single way to prepare for what may come, but it’s crucial to recognize reflection as a pivotal part of reintegration. It could happen right away, weeks later, or even years. Not surprisingly, writing about it and talking with others who have been abroad is a great outlet! –Ashley Houston
Tip #7 Plan For the Future
Everyone deals with reality in a different way, but here is what worked for me: Be patient. It is a phase and it will pass. Keep busy – work, study, do sports. Being nostalgic all the time will prevent you from enjoying your time at home and it will annoy the people around you. Reconnect with family and friends, they were and will always be my safe harbor. Talk to people who are going through the same situation, they understand what you miss. Make plans! Focus on your next trip, job, relationship, studies, etc. Life goes on! – Ana Elisa
Tip #8 Each Re-Entry Experience is Different
Remember that you are not the only person that experiences re-entry, and that it is good to know that you can share your experiences with other people who have been abroad, who will understand what you are going through and can help you get through this time. Regardless of how many times you have traveled or lived abroad, you will experience re-entry in a different manner. Be open to the possibility that you may feel differently than a previous time abroad and that this is normal. – Kristin Garland
Tip #9 Rethink Your Mindset When Your Return From Abroad
It really helps if you participate in an international organization or event when you return. I signed up to be a mentor when I got back to my University. I made lots of new international friends. Reminiscing is nice, but getting stuck on the past may foster feelings of sadness and prevent you from enjoying the present. When you are abroad, you have to make many adjustments due to the different way of life and new environment. This requires openness and acceptance, which can also be applied to the re-entry experience. Coming home with this sort of mindset and a positive attitude will make the process much more enjoyable and easier. -Sophia Zahng
Tip #10 Embrace A Global Life
What I wish someone would have told me when I was first getting to know re-entry was that your experiences abroad and in re-entry are yours alone and that ambivalence is okay. I wish I had been more flexible with my processing; I often felt like I had to give the same put-together, perfectly summed-up response to everyone and that if I slipped from the values and practices I had found while abroad, I would regress to a less desirable version of self and never get that “global me” back. But that only happens when you don’t fully process and integrate all of these new parts of you! Your ‘past self’ and ‘new you’ coexist, and they’re not in as much opposition as I thought. You can adapt to different settings and situations using different ‘versions’ of you, and the other parts are not lost or damaged. -Alexis Dumain
Tip #11 Understand That Re-Entry Can Be Rewarding
I would like to share that processing re-entry can be just as rewarding as going abroad. Unpacking the emotions that surround my own re-entry has helped me firm up my post-abroad self-identity. The confidence I have gained throughout this process assures me that I can make decisions that best serve the person I am today. In addition to all this, I have also developed several new transferable skills! Processing my re-entry has not only benefited me on a personal level, it has also made me more competitive in my field! -Madelyn Petrovich
Tip #12 Allow Yourself to Really Feel
We often underestimate our ability to adapt, and re-entry is no different. Although it may be scary, lean into all of your big feelings during re-entry (and I truly mean all of them – even the not so pleasant ones) and allow yourself to feel. By doing so, you are better able to process your international experience, the transformation you’ve gone through, and who you want to be moving forward. Don’t hide from those big feelings, they will always catch up to you. Sit. Be still. Unpack. Process. Feel. One day, when you’re least expecting it, you will feel better having done so. -Hannah Sorila