STEP 4: HELPING YOUR CHILD THROUGH THE DELICATE REENTRY STAGE
What Is Reverse Culture Shock?
Reverse culture shock is a way of describing the difficulties that many students have in readjusting to their home, resuming relationships with friends and family, and getting back into the routine of school and other activities upon return from an education abroad experience. Like culture shock, it is often experienced as a sometimes volatile set of emotional ups and downs that can be bewildering to the student who is experiencing it, as well as to those around him. As with culture shock, reverse culture shock varies a great deal from student to student. Some students are completely happy, even relieved to be home again, and experience very little if any reverse culture shock. Others may find it extremely difficult to get back into their routine, and may take a long time to readjust. It depends a lot on the student, and the nature and length of the experience abroad, as well as other factors.
Reverse culture shock is another normal and natural part of the study abroad experience. Much of what the student may find difficult in the readjustment period has to do with important personal, emotional, and intellectual growth he has experienced, and learning he has done while abroad. He may feel he is a different person than the one who left, and may feel frustrated with being treated by friends and family like someone he no longer feels he is, and doesn't want to be.
He may feel disappointed that no one really understands the depth and intensity of the experience he has gone through, and-worse-no one seems interested enough to really listen to him talk about his experiences He may feel "homesickness" for the study abroad location he has left behind, or unhappy about returning to aspects of his life at home that he may not have liked in the first place and likes even less now.
You can help your child through this period by listening to him, showing genuine interest in hearing about his experiences, and urging him to incorporate his study abroad experience into his present and future life in ways that he finds attractive. Encourage him to maintain contact with the friends he made while abroad, both American students and foreign ones. If he talks about wanting to study abroad again, encourage him to search for opportunities that will fit into his academic plans and will further his career goals and objectives.
In this period, too, the office of education abroad or international education on your child's home campus can be helpful. Study abroad professionals are very familiar with the difficulties of reentry: some programs offer workshops, seminars, or other planned activities for returning students that can help ease the transition. If your child is having exceptional difficulty, urge him to seek counseling either there, or through the on campus counseling services. In some cases, more extensive help from mental health professionals may be appropriate.