You expected culture shock when you studied abroad. You expected to be baffaled by the customs of your new home. You expected to question the locals behavior. Culture shock when you study abroad is a given, but you never expected to experience culture shock when you returned.
How is it even possible to feel culture shock in the only culture, up until a few months ago, you’ve ever known? You grew up in this culture, it’s ingrained in you. So why, does it feel so out of place and strange after only being gone for a couple of months?
All of sudden you start questioning things you used to think were completely normal. It takes a little bit of time to get used to the things you used to not even have to think about. And, there may be some things you will never readjust to. Here are just a few ways you know you’re dealing with reverse culture shock.
- When you walk into a restaurant, coffee shop, etc. you start going over your order in a foreign language until you remember they speak English
- Your stomach is so confused by your new feeding schedule “why am I eating dinner while the sun is still up?”
- You try to walk out of a bar with your drink before you remember open container laws are a thing here
- You try to get into a bar before you realize the drinking age here is 21 and it’s actually enforced
- You instinctively say “grazie”, “merci”, or “gracias” when accepting your starbucks drink from the barista- then turn bright red, mutter “sorry”, and run out of that place
- You’re absolutely perplexed when you order a medium soda and receive 32oz
- You still get surprised when you can read all the signs, headlines, and directions you come across
- You show up to work 15 minutes late forgetting about that European grace period
- Now that you can understand what people are saying on TV you can ditch those silly books and get back to reality TV…..Kidding! (kind of)Here’s hoping the adjustment period for reverse culture shock ends soon
You’re in a new country for four months, meeting all new people, making all new friends, maybe even speaking an all new language. It’s great! You get to escape your life at home, your responsibilities, and your stresses- oh wait, that’s not true. Life is still moving forward at home with or without you. If you want to seamlessly rejoin it when you return, you’ll need to actually do a little bit of work while you’re abroad.
- Schedule classes: Unless you are going abroad the semester before you graduate, you’re going to need to schedule classes while abroad. If you thought scheduling classes was bad before its nightmarish abroad. Most likely your registration window will be at an ungodly hour thanks to the time difference and you will need to wake up in the middle of the night to do it. And, it’s not so easy to drop by your adviser’s office for their quick advice on your schedule when you’re thousands of miles away. You need to email your adviser your plan at least a few weeks ahead of time. To make the process go as smooth as possible plan what classes you want to take and figure out when your registration is before you leave.
- Apply for internships: The majority of undergrads studying abroad do so in their spring semester of junior year; and we all know what the summer after junior year is for- internships! If you’re a business student you’ll probably have this all settled before you even leave, but for comm majors, like me, applications don’t open up until February at the earliest. Before you leave, come up with a list of places you’d like to apply and then set aside blocks of time when you can leave your friends and get to work on your applications. Ask your professors for letters of recommendation and to look over your resume before you leave so you’ll be able to upload them to companies’ online applications with ease.
- Make sure your classes transfer: Making sure your credits transfer goes beyond just talking to the head of your department. Often times there are specific requirements or supplements that your university will make you complete in order to get the transfer credit. Know everything you need to do before you leave and set aside time to do it. As much fun as you’re having abroad it will be way less fun when you need to stay an extra semester because none of your credits transferred.
- Be aware of what’s going on in your home country: From local to national news stay up to date on natural disasters, politics, crime, and the good news too. You’re still a citizen and will be expected to know what was going on even if you weren’t there. Also, to avoid mocking by your friends check the top 10 on iTunes every once in awhile because music in Europe tends to be a couple months behind.
- Stay up to date with what’s happening in your friends lives’: You’re making loads of new friends and having tons of fun abroad but your friends at home are probably missing you as much as you miss them. Make sure you know what is going on with them from new internships to breakups and all the daily friendship dramas in between. This is an amazing opportunity you have but part of being a good friend is being there for your friends through the good, the bad, and the ugly- no matter where you are.
Thankfully you’re studying abroad in the twenty-first century and it’s easier now than ever to keep in touch with your world at home. So, while some of these may seem like major annoyances, remember they would have been nearly impossible only 10-15 years ago. Appreciate the fact that going abroad doesn’t mean putting your life on hold or having your future plans set back a few steps.
For more advice and relatable posts about study abroad check back here every week. Good luck and happy travels!