Study Abroad

How to Cope With Reverse Culture Shock


  1. Make sure you take time to say goodbye to your new friends before you return. Get photographs with them, have a meal together and thank them for becoming part of your life. Obtain their email addresses, home addresses and phone numbers. Also be sure to get contact information for your fellow study abroad participants before you leave.


  2. Keep a journal of your experiences while you are away and continue to journal after you return. Before you leave your host country to return home, consider using your journal to reflect on your experiences. What do you miss most about the U.S.? What do you worry about when considering going home? Compare the U.S. with your host country. What do you love and dislike about each? Do you see a pattern? Reflecting on the program is one dramatic way to process the experience to grow intellectually and make the best use of the opportunity. The changes in your cultural perspective are common. You have developed independence, self-esteem, global awareness, adaptability, and confidence. Think of other competencies that you have acquired.

    1. I've learned from my many trips since, that you cannot share the whole experience with someone who wasn't there. Trying to will just frustrate you and bore the listener. Just like what happens when someone pulls out vacation photos, but on a larger scale

      learned that what works best (for me) is to cull one or two stories from the trip to tell. Mine was "My brush with Death." I was in a pub full of hooligans watching World-cup soccer and cheered when somebody scored. It was Germany that scored against England. And the room was not amused. Makes a good story. Also I go for framing my best photo(s), so if someone asks, I can talk about t. But I don't feel I'm pushing it.

  3. Your family, especially your parents, may be excited and happy with the new you because you have proven yourself responsible while you were away. But be patient with your friends, whose reactions may be more negative. They may be annoyed with constant references to your trip, or they may begin to feel threatened by your cosmopolitan outlook. Also keep in mind that unless they have experienced reverse culture shock themselves, they will not understand your frustration. They will expect you to be exactly the same and snap out of your funk right away. You will feel pressure to conform.

  5. Keep in mind that once you get back it will be just as easy to criticize what is "wrong" with the United States as it was to criticize "foreigners" before you left. You have become more sophisticated in your ability to see your home culture from multiple perspectives; not all of your friends and family will share this skill.  Be aware of this, and try to keep a balanced perspective.

  7. If you become depressed, contact your fellow study abroad alumni or your faculty advisor to discuss the situation. If it is very bad or persists, you should speak to a counselor on campus or at home.

  9. Finally, remember that like many other episodes in your life, this feeling will pass. As you re-join activities with friends and family and become re-acclimated you will remember your study abroad experience fondly. Keep the experience in perspective and remember to use the knowledge gained to your advantage by continuing to adopt a global outlook in all aspects of your life.


Most culture shock experienced as part of an overseas adjustment rarely lasts more than a few weeks or months. Culture shock is, for most people, a transitory situation that usually gives way as intercultural skills improve and small successes accumulate.


Reverse culture shock can be more persistent. Not only is reverse culture shock a surprising consequence of return from study abroad, but its effects might linger considerably longer than one might expect. For most students a reasonable readjustment home takes about the same amount of time that working through culture shock did while abroad, a few weeks to several months, but for some the process is uncomfortably prolonged.  Some students report that it took them up to a year or more to gain the necessary perspective on their experience to allow them to feel completely at home and fully functioning.





For more information on reverse culture shock, try the following resources:


The following resources are available in Morris Library (call numbers):

  • Adler, N. (1981) Re-entry: Managing cross-cultural transitions. Group and Organization Studies, 6, 341-356 (HM134.G72)
  • Brabant, S., Palmer, C. E. & Gramling, R. (1990) Returning home: An empirical investigation of cross-cultural reentry. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 14, 387-404 (GN496.I15)
  • Denny, M. (1987) Going Home: A workbook for reentry and professional integration. Washington DC: NAFSA: Association of International Educators (LA203.N33)
  • Kohls, L. Robert. Survival Kit for Overseas Living. Yarmouth, Maine: Intercultural Press, 1996 (E184.2.K64)
  • Martin, J.N. (1986) Communication in the Intercultural re-entry: Student sojourners' perspectives of change in re-entry relationships. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 10, 1-22 (GN496. I15)
  • Raschio, Richard A. (1987, March) "College Students' Perceptions of reverse Culture Shock and Reentry Adjustments". Journal of College Student Personnel, 28:156-162 (LB1027.5.A1.J645)
  • Storti, Craig. The Art of Crossing Cultures. Yarmouth Maine: Intercultural Press, 1990 (GN517.S76)
  • Sussman, N. M. (1986) Reentry research and training: methods and implications. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 10, 235-254 (GN496.I15)
  • Uehara, A. (1986) The nature of American student re-entry adjustment and perceptions of the sojourn experience. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 10, 415-438 (GN496. I15)


For any additional questions, don't hesitate to drop us an email or give us a call: Institute for Global Studies 302.831.2852








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