Before studying abroad, most collegiettes spend a lot of time getting ready for the trip and expect to experience culture shock when they get to a new country, but not many people prepare for reverse culture shock when they get back home. After you’ve spent time in a different country and gotten used to a different culture, readjusting to life back home can sometimes be just as hard as it was adjusting to life abroad in the first place. We have some tips that will make it easier!
Get Your Sleep Schedule Back on Track
When you get back from another country, your sleep schedule is probably going to be all kinds of messed up. This can cause fatigue and make it hard to get back to normal life. As difficult as it may be, try to wait until a reasonable hour in the evening to go to sleep when you get back. Set an alarm for a reasonable hour to wake up. Creating a normal sleep schedule will help you body get used to the time change. In the daytime, try to get outside in the sunlight whenever possible because sunlight is a natural stimulant that can regulate your biological clock.
Tenisha Carrington, a junior at Kennesaw State University, advises collegiettes to resist the urge to sleep as much as possible. Instead, she says, “Since you were probably feeling homesick, take time to meet up with friends, binge on the foods you missed and tell everyone what an amazing time you had until you can find an appropriate time to fall asleep. Then just try and fall asleep at that same time every day.”
Accept That You Have Changed
You’ve been abroad and experienced a whole new part of the world. You lived differently, and you have probably changed in several ways because of it.
After studying abroad in Leysin, Switzerland, Sarah Dunne, a senior at Florida State University, hated to drive once she came back home. “There was so much public transportation in Europe that when I came back to the States, I realized how much I hated driving and how everything in [my hometown] is so spread out that walking to do your daily errands is basically impossible,” she says.
Simple things that you never realized were different can change your outlook on life. After studying abroad in London and staying in a dorm the size of a small kitchen, Tenisha’s definition of “essential” changed. “Studying abroad will make you realize that you can live without that one item of clothing or the five beauty products you use in your hair,” she says.
Once returning home, Tenisha learned to embrace simplicity. Instead of attempting to go back completely to the life you used to have, try to incorporate some of the lifestyle changes you made abroad into your life at home.
Keep in Contact with the Friends You Met Abroad
Just because you’re home doesn’t mean you have to forget the culture you left behind! Keep in contact with the friends you met abroad. “When [the friends I made and I] first came back to the States, we were constantly setting up group meet-ups,” Tenisha says.
Spending time with people who also studied abroad with you will help you to still feel connected to the culture and everything you experienced there. You can reminisce together and look back at all the cliché and wonderful pictures you took together.
Jan Morian, a study abroad adviser at Kennesaw State University, says that “it's helpful for students to continue to connect with the country they visited, either through some type of volunteer work here in the U.S., or whatever may interest them. I encourage students to also give back at school by speaking to others about study abroad.” Sharing your experience with others is a good way to stay connected to it, and incorporating your study abroad country’s culture into your life can help ease your transition back into American culture.
Enjoy Time Alone
When you were abroad, you probably spent a lot of time with the other people in your program, so it’s good to come back and have time to yourself. “When you come back after being with so many people, it can be good to have some alone time and reflect on your experiences and how it's changed you,” Sarah says.
Take some time to reacquaint yourself with your school. Go to your favorite spot on campus and spend some time reading or catching up on social media for some quality solo time.
“I had a few days to myself, which help me get back into the swing of things,” Tenisha says.
Get Ready to Focus on School
Although you took classes while abroad, it didn’t compare to a normal semester. Once you get back to your school, you have to take on a full course load, and it may seem like an overload. You aren’t taking classes and jet-setting to new countries anymore; you’re just a normal student. To adjust, try to refocus your attention back to school in order to make the most of your year.
You can also participate in on-campus study abroad events as a way to get back into a campus-minded routine. “A lot of students… volunteer at information sessions [and] the study abroad fair and do classroom recruiting visits,” Morian says. “It often leads them to good networking experiences as a result.”
Go Out With Old Friends
After spending so much time exploring a new place, you may find your home to be a bit boring. “Obviously there is a lot less to do here in Georgia than there was in London, so I was a bit at a loss for what I should do,” Chelsie says.
What better way to readjust to your home life than to go out and live it? Call up your friends whom you haven’t seen since being abroad and go do the activities and eat all the food you missed while you were gone. See a movie, grab lunch, go shopping or hit up your favorite bar. Do anything that makes you feel at home. Tell your friends all about your experiences and hear about what their lives were like while you were gone. Soon it’ll feel like no time passed!
Take it Day by Day
While you were abroad, you changed the way in which you live your life, and you’re not necessarily going to be back to your old routine overnight. It’s going to take some time, so take it day by day. Don’t feel like you need to be reacquainted to your old life immediately. It’s a process that will happen over time, so don’t stress about it too much. You’ll be back in the swing of things soon!