Adjusting back to life at home after a semester abroad can spark a mix of emotions. Adjusting to new classes and teachers, reconnecting with friends and facing unexpected differences can be more challenging than you might expect. It's even natural to miss your life abroad. You might feel like an outsider or struggle to find motivation in your academics. It's important to know that these feelings are completely normal and are often referred to as “reverse culture shock” or “re-entry shock.”
This page is meant to be a resource to help you understand, prepare for and navigate reverse culture shock so you can transition back to home life as quickly and smoothly as possible. Whether you are a student returning home or preparing to go abroad, or a parent or teacher providing guidance, we hope you find comfort and support here.
Managing Reverse Culture Shock
What is Reverse Culture Shock?
You’ve probably heard of and even experienced culture shock — those initial feelings of excitement, discomfort and confusion when adjusting to an unfamiliar environment. Those exact same feelings are just as common to experience when returning from time spent away from home. In fact, around 70% of people experience some form of reverse culture shock.
Some feelings you might experience are:
Lack of motivation
of students experience reverse culture shock
How can I manage reverse culture shock?
Here are some practical and emotional ways to start adjusting back to being at home after living abroad:
Stay in touch with your friends from abroad.
Seek out activities that you enjoyed while abroad.
Focus on your health by staying active.
Physical Health: It’s common to become ill upon your return as your body adjusts to the environment back home. Schedule a check-up with your doctor if you are feeling sick.
Become involved in cultural, travel and international clubs and groups on campus:
CSCI Club: Make connections between our two Chadwick campuses.
Look ahead and plan your next adventure abroad: Stay tuned for the list of global programs each fall!
Meet with your advisor for academic support.
Share your experiences with others.
- Acknowledge your feelings and seek support. Being here is a great first step!
- Remember that one culture is no better or worse than another; each is just different in its own ways.
- Stay open to what is happening around you back home. Trust that in time, you'll adjust.
- Get curious and explore your home culture with your new post-travel perspective.
Share Your Experience with the Chadwick Community
The values and experiences you gained while studying abroad are invaluable. You have so much to share with the Chadwick community and we want to hear all about it! Here are some ways you can share your knowledge and experience:
Global Programs Chair on the Round Square Board: Use your experience to work with Global Programs on the Round Square Board.
Global Programs Fair: Get others excited about semester programs by sharing your experience at the Global Programs Fair.
Student Advisor: Going abroad is intimidating, but having someone experienced like you to talk to can offer comfort and support as students plan their adventures. If you are willing to share your experience with others, reach out to the Global Programs Director, who can connect you with a student or have you share your experience at the Global Programs Fair.
“Be kind to yourself and cut yourself some slack. Don’t expect people to understand, so give them grace too, and keep yourself engaged in your passions.”
I struggled to find motivation, but painting became a way to express the difficult emotions I had while adjusting back home. I discovered a new passion.
Carson Breus, ’21 (SYA China ’20)
It was rewarding to speak the Chinese language back home and have conversations about cross-cultural experiences with Chinese people in America.
The feelings you're experiencing are real — it’s like going through grief. No one wants to leave their trips, which tells you how amazing they are. Just know that it will get easier in time.
Chadwick Schools develop global citizens with keen minds, exemplary character, self-knowledge and the ability to lead.
Visit our Global Programs webpage for more information.
*This webpage was envisioned by Alana Ikemoto (’21) as part of her senior Apex project.