Reverse Culture Shock

Believe it or not, after returning to the states you may experience a period of time where you miss studying abroad and need to readjust to life in the States. Different students experience varying degrees of “reverse culture shock.” Global Ambassadors is a great program to reconnect with other students in this position and provides an outlet to talk nonstop about your study abroad experience to other students who care about what you have to say!

From any travel experience I’ve had, the thing I force myself to remember is that not everyone at home has had the same experience.  For example, if my mom has never dealt with the diverse and somewhat high tensions of culture clash in the Middle East, I cannot expect that she’ll understand my grappling with the situation. Or if my friends who have never really left home don’t understand why I keep leaving, I have to understand that it’s an experience they’ve never had.  Then, it’s not a matter of being closed off from them, but of trying to express your experiences in a manner that’s relatable to them.  Only then is it easy to get over the difficulties and really connect someone to the same story you have in your mind and the same experience that really meant so much to you. – Margaret, London

After my first semester abroad, I came back disgusted at the lack of culture in the States, and was dying to go back to Europe. After a semester in Madrid, however, I realized that eight whole months abroad helped me realize what was missing from my life without the states, and I began appreciating the American things I took for granted before. Beach Boys, 24-hour diners, big breakfasts, and the freedom to be who you want to be. -Sarah, Florence & Madrid

I at first felt a little disgusted with huge supermarkets, and just the overabundance of everything in America in general. But then I realized that if I cannot cope with that, how can I ever hope to bridge a gap between the people I live with and speak with each day, and the special new friends I made in Ghana? To be able to connect the two and make some sort of understanding in my own head and to others, I have to be able to deal with and be proud of where I was born and grew up. Additionally, It was hard to answer big questions like ‘how was Ghana?’ because there was just so much to say.  Also, not everyone ‘gets it’ in terms of understanding certain experiences, and how you came to feel a certain way about a place. – Amanda, Ghana

I’m still adjusting. I stayed in New York this summer because I thought it would be easier to return there than to the suburbs. What happened was that I experienced all my culture shock in the city I had once loved so much. I’ve taken solace in blasting Italian music on my iPod every day, and once a month I go to Luzzo’s (1st and 13th), which is the most authentically Italian restaurant I’ve seen outside of Italy. The waitstaff is all Italian – I drink spumante and order in Italian. It gives me amazing peace of mind. – Anah, Florence

I had trouble reconnecting with New York when I returned.  It was all too loud, too big, and quite different from the more reserved nature of Prague.  For the first week I felt like a stranger in a city I love.  No one really discusses with you the difficulties of studying in two different cities and the trouble of returning.  In order to reconnect with NYC, I did the things that made me happy: go to my favorite café, take long walks, do some shopping and especially see my friends. -Jeremy, Prague

Immediately upon leaving the airport, I made several comments about the sizes of automobiles and the strangeness of the scenery.  I was glad to be back in the States, but I couldn’t grasp the concept of having a car available for me (which, despite being a “compact car” here would be one of the largest cars abroad), not living with 14 other students, feeling like every basic task is an adventure, etc. Only initially, I felt sort of distant from my group of friends at home. I guess I coped by sharing lots of stories with them, but eventually I started feeling like I was talking about my experiences too much. – Stephen, Florence

Returning home, I missed a lot of the great parts about the country I was in. In China, [I missed] eating tons of really good food and drinking bubble tea. I missed speaking Chinese and French, being around foreign people all the time, and being stimulated with new ideas. – Angelo, Shanghai

FROM A LOCAL’S PERSPECTIVE

Going back home was very weird for me. Although I had not been away for that long, everything just looked so different to me and I felt a little bit like a stranger in my own country. My friends and family told me that I was constantly telling them how great London was and how I wanted to go back, which obviously did not make them feel very good. Also I was using quite a few English words (my native language is German), simply because I could not remember the German ones as easily or felt that it was more fitting to express myself in English. While I did not do any of these things to hurt anyone, quite a few people got annoyed with me. You really have to bear in mind that you have been privileged enough to study abroad and not everyone gets a chance to do so. Other people would not even want to go abroad. Therefore, some can get jealous, others are just disinterested. Just bear in mind who it is you are talking to about your experience abroad and respect their feelings. Whenever I had moments of difficulty with reconnecting with home, I just reminded myself that this was a sign of a great accomplishment: I had been able to adapt to another so well that I had become part of it and was now experiencing what some call reverse culture shock. – Maria, London (From Germany)

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