Coping With Reverse Culture Shock

Studying, working, and traveling abroad are undoubtedly life-changing experiences.  While returning home can be exciting, in many ways it can present some of the same challenges that you overcame when you were abroad and adjusting to your host culture as well.  It can be difficult at times to re-acclimate to campus life, and you might find yourself with some of the same feelings/symptoms that you experienced with Culture Shock.

What is Reverse Culture Shock?

Reverse Culture Shock is a feeling which can occur when an individual is removed from their native culture for a period of time, exposed to other cultures, and then is reunited with their native cultural environment.  At times, the returning individual may feel out of place or have challenges reintegrating to their former life.  The individual may also notice new components of their native culture that they did not recognize before and may struggle with interpreting these revelations.

Interpreting your Experiences

Now that you have operated in another cultural setting, you may feel frustrated with elements of your own culture or how your home nation engages with countries and cultures abroad.  Although these feelings are natural, it is important to consider the positive aspects of both your native culture and your host culture and remember that no one system is perfect.

Re-establishing Relationships

Oftentimes, your friends and family members have a static image of you as you were before your international experience.  They may not fully understand how you may have grown or changed as a result of your experience.  It is important to understand their perspective as well and to be patient.  

Discussing your Experiences

Do not be surprised if your audience does not seem to understand or relate to your experiences in the exact same way that you do.  They, unfortunately, were unable to live those exciting moments with you and may need additional explanations or visuals to better understand the experiences you’re trying to share. The use of photos and stories is a helpful way to help your audience better comprehend your experiences and learn how you may have grown or changed from your time abroad.

Strategies to Help you Cope with Reverse Culture Shock:


Volunteering for international-themed student organizations on campus.  The Engineers Abroad: IPE Alumni Network and the International Buddy Program are great ways to share your experiences, help recruit prospective students to go abroad and aid international students at the University of Michigan College of Engineering.

Submit your Videos and Photos into the IPE Photo Contest!

Submitting your photos and videos abroad into our IPE Photo Contest is a fun way to share your experiences with the entire University of Michigan College of Engineering community.  Your photos may even be used by the IPE office to help encourage other students to consider going abroad.

Create a Webpage, Blog, Journal, or Scrapbook:

Documenting your time abroad is a great way to capture your memories and preserve them for years to come.  Try to document your experiences as soon as you can following your return while your memories and feelings are still fresh.

Plan a Reunion:

Planning regular get together meetings with other students who went on the global experience with you is another way to keep connected to your international experience. With the help of technology and social media it has become even easier to keep connected with your friends abroad.


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