You've finally arrived home to the warm welcome of family, friends, and Fido, after an amazing experience studying abroad. Only problem? Once you arrive, and the euphoria of seeing everyone wears off, you suddenly find yourself daydreaming about your host country, missing the friends you made while studying abroad, and thinking you'd rather be there than at home. While this is unsettling and can even leave you depressed, what the experts call "re-entry shock" is completely common and totally normal. Figuring out the signs of shock and knowing what to do if you are experiencing them, will help you adjust when you return.
What is Re-Entry Shock?
Re-entry shock is a term that describes the reverse culture shock people go through when returning home after an extended stay abroad. Just as you experienced culture shock when you first arrived at your study abroad destination, most students go through a similar readjustment period when they return home. Although re-entry shock is normal, it affects everyone differently.
Are You Experiencing Re-Entry Shock?
Feeling a little off? If you've just returned home and are experiencing a range of feelings, from antsy-ness to depression, you may be going through re-entry shock. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you feel like friends and family lack significant interest in your study abroad experience?
- Do you spend a great deal of your time thinking about and planning for a return trip to your study abroad destination?
- Do you feel bored with the pace of life at your home institution?
- Do you feel like you do not have much in common with your old friends?
- Do you feel as though you have separated your study abroad experience from the rest of your life, as if it has no place in your current situation?
- Have you experienced, over a significant period of time and in intense manner, any of the following symptoms: restlessness, boredom, uncertainty, self-imposed isolation, changes in goals and priorities, homesickness for your host country, depression, and/or negative thoughts, attitude or behavior towards your native country.
If you answered yes to the questions above you are more than likely experiencing re-entry shock. It should be comforting to know that most students who study abroad will experience this emotional phase and that you are not alone. And, while re-entry shock can often be a more difficult adjustment (because students are not expecting it) than the culture shock experienced when venturing to a new country, it is by no means incurable.
What Can You Do to Alleviate Re-Entry Shock?
First, expect not to come home to the home you left. Think about all of the changes you've gone through during your time abroad and realize that, while they haven't ventured to a different country, your family and friends have also gone through changes while you've been away. Learning to expect a period of adjustment is the first step towards keeping re-entry shock at bay. Here is a list of other ways you can beat the re-entry blues:
- Stay Connected: Keep in touch with the friends you made overseas. This means both friends from the US as well as friends from the host country! Write letters, emails or even plan a reunion. If you are planning on reuniting, let CEA know how it went!
Email your story so we can share it with other alumni!
- Keep Talking: Join a language club; read a book in your host country's language; enroll in a refresher course; rent an international film; or subscribe to the host country's newspaper!
Reflect Often: If you kept a journal while abroad, continue to write your "post-abroad" experiences in it. It will be interesting to go back a year, two years, or even a decade from now to remember the experience as a whole and how it changed your life. Submit your travel writings or photos to:
All of these organizations look for student writings and often publish them.
- Promote Study Abroad on Campus: Share your experience and resources with other students by promoting study abroad on campus. You may volunteer your time or may even be able to get paid.
Contact us to learn about our Alumni Programs.
- Help Out: Join an international club or look into providing assistance to foreign students who are studying on your campus. Remember, you have been in their shoes and you understand their feelings about living in a foreign country!
- Call CEA: We were here for you when you were planning your study abroad experience and we will be here after you return! Our staff has extensive experience working with students returning from abroad and wants to make sure that the transition to life back at home is smooth for all of our alumni. Don't hesitate to call us at 800-266-4441 or
- Speak to a Counselor: Many campuses offer counseling through their study abroad office that specialize in understanding inter-cultural exposure.
Check out the following for more information on re-entry shock and what you can expect to experience when you return home.
- Back in the USA: Reflecting on Your Study Abroad Experience and Putting it to Work by Dawn Kepets
- Short-Term Study Abroad: Integration, Third Culture Formation, and Reentry (A NAFSA Conference Paper) by James L. Citron