Office of International Programs

Re-entry and Cultural Adjustment

One of the greatest challenges of studying abroad is coming back home. Many people expect to have difficulty adjusting when they go abroad, but no one expects to have problems when they return. This adjustment is often referred to as “re-entry shock”.  You’ve just had an amazing experience abroad and you want to talk about it. Unfortunately, your parents and your friends may not be as interested as you would prefer. You’ve learned about a new culture and, chances are, you’ve changed some of your old values and ideas, and you may have trouble re-assimilating into American culture.

Life at Brown may look completely new to you after spending a year or semester abroad. Many students have difficulties readjusting to the hectic schedule and the stress on campus. Again, re-entry shock is inevitable, and even the best-prepared students will have some problems getting back into the swing of things. These suggestions might help you during your first few months back:

• Remember what you did when you were abroad and adjusting to your new country. Use those same techniques that helped you cope then to assist you with your readjustment now.

• Play the role of the observer, not a judge. It’s easy to criticize, much more difficult to understand. You’re looking at American culture from a very unique standpoint now. Take your time and think about what you see.

• Expect that you may feel frustration and depression. Knowing this could happen will not prevent these feelings, but it will keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

• Become active with the OIP or with other opportunities on campus or in the local community.    Some suggestions for returned students include:

  • Attend an OIP Returned Student Events held each semester to welcome you back to campus.

  • Apply to be a Peer Advisor, hired to help staff the OIP Resource Library and serve as primary contacts for students interested in study abroad. Job openings are posted on Brown’s student employment website

  • Integrate your study abroad experience into your program of study. Take courses that deal with issues you became interested in while abroad, or consider an independent study, senior thesis or research project that builds on your international experience.

  • Go abroad again – consider summer study, fellowship, or investigate options for international work opportunities or internships abroad.

Re-entry can be tough, but remember, you’re a veteran of cultural adjustment. You’ve faced more difficult and trying situations and came out on top. You will readjust to life in the U.S. and back at Brown. 

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