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 get back home. This re-entry and cultural 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 or at your home college 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 to feel frustration and depression. Knowing this will happen will not prevent these feelings, but it will keep you from feeling overwhelmed.
• Take your time. Don’t rush into big decisions if you’re depressed.
• Become active with the OIP or with the study abroad office at your home school. The OIP sponsors several activities for Brown students, including:
Returned Student Events are held each semester to welcome you back to campus.
Peer Advisors are hired to help staff the OIP Resource Library and serve as primary contacts for students interested in study abroad, and to provide administrative support to the OIP staff. Job openings are posted on Brown’s student employment website.
Volunteer at the annual OIP Study Abroad Fair, held each year in late September.
Join campus groups or activities with an international focus.
Connect with the local international community off-campus through cultural events, volunteering and community service.
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.
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 to your home campus, too.