You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, I told him, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.
I’ve blogged quite a bit about being in Japan—but I’ve neglected to mention what happens when you come home. Granted, I’ve never been abroad for very long. Six weeks in Germany. Five in Japan. It’s not enough time to get over the “honeymoon” phase of being abroad, to really get integrated into the culture, to be a part of it. I can’t say, then, that I experienced true reverse culture shock—where you feel disoriented in your home country, where you have trouble reconnecting with your old friends, where suddenly it’s harder to live at home than abroad. Regardless, I had a bit of a jolt…
The famous W-curve (or U-curve) of cultural adaptation. It is really normal and common for people to go through different stages of adaptation and for you to be homesick or frustrated at times and feel really triumphant or happy at others. Talk to someone if you feel like your ups and downs are too high or too low, but know that this sort of excitement and frustration is normal!
But the hardest part of processing are the struggles I have with defining and understanding my own identity: when I don’t feel comfortable with situations, attitudes, or philosophies that were ingrained in me since I was a child, but can’t outright reject them either because they are learned, ingrained, and a part of my history. And that’s when it hits me. Re-entry is a process, but also a revealing journey.
Sometimes coming back from study abroad can make you feel like you don’t really fit in either place. Other times, it feels like you have two homes!
Being able to think optimistically about what you’ve learned abroad not only helps you feel better as you process your feelings about coming home, but it can also help you articulate how you are different—to family, friends, teachers, mentors, and current and potential employers.
At first, it may be challenging to put your experiences and thoughts into words, and it’s normal to have conflicting feelings about being back. Judith Martin, an authority on intercultural reentry and reverse culture shock, says, “Although this confusion may lead to temporary reentry difficulties, effective communication and relationship formation play important roles in processing this identity change and in integrating old and new knowledge, behaviors, feelings, and perspectives—all of which require time and effort.”
If you are returning from studying abroad and need help processing your experiences, there are a lot of good tips under the “reentry” tag on this blog.
4. Change happens. People change, and I’m included. When I left home this year, I thought that when I would return everything would be the same. I think I realized that wasn’t true when I saw that I changed as well. It wouldn’t be fair for me to hold my life back home to the standard of not changing that I didn’t live up to. Change happens, and that can be a good thing. Maybe I didn’t change as much as I grew up, but I’m sure that I’m not the same little girl as the one who left home in September, and that’s ok.
One of the challenges about returning home after studying abroad is the feeling that the world around you has changed. It may have changed, but you should also recognize, as Jana does here, that you’ll have changed and you’ll need to re-discover your home culture.
When a traveller returneth home, let him not leave the countries, where he hath travelled, altogether behind him; but maintain a correspondence by letters, with those of his acquaintance, which are of most worth. And let his travel appear rather in his discourse, than his apparel or gesture; and in his discourse, let him be rather advised in his answers, than forward to tell stories; and let it appear that he doth not change his country manners, for those of foreign parts; but only prick in some flowers, of that he hath learned abroad, into the customs of his own country.
I decided to kick off this blog with a post I wrote for the CEA Global Education blog at the start of the year.
Recently there’s been a lot of talk about how international education can give students an advantage when they enter the global workplace. A mass of research also shows very clearly that many employers value the skills that students can develop while studying abroad. But when it comes to job interview time, how many students are really going to be able to put into words the many benefits of study abroad? How many of them are going to be able to selltheir overseas study as something that makes them a better employee? And is anyone helping them do this?…