Reverse Cultural Adjustment

Transitioning Back to Princeton

Returning to Campus Can Present Unique Challenges

Returning home can sometimes be just as challenging as going abroad. Reverse cultural adjustment, or reverse culture shock, varies from student to student. You may find it difficult to slip back into settings, routines, and relationships that were once familiar and comfortable. Your family and friends might expect you to be the same person, and it can be difficult for them to understand how you have changed. 

Common Reentry Experiences

  • Having the impression that you can't fully explain your experience or its importance 
  • Realizing that others do not want to hear very much about your adventures 
  • Feeling "out of place" despite being home 
  • Being bored with being home 
  • Experiencing "reverse homesickness" for the place where you studied abroad 
  • Realizing that relationships with family and friends have changed 
  • Feeling that others misunderstand your growth, or see the "wrong" changes in you 
  • Assessing your home in a way that is judgmental or overly critical 
  • Feeling that your experience abroad is lost or cut off from the rest of your life 

Tips for Readjusting

  • Try to use the same cultural adaptation skills that you developed while adjusting to being abroad (e.g. keep active, maintain a sense of humor, find a support group, expect differences, allow yourself to make mistakes, stay flexible).
  • Be reflective. Give some thought to your return, to the types of intellectual and emotional changes that you have undergone as a result of your time abroad. 
  • Expect some negative feelings about your "home" culture. Try not to be too critical of shortcomings that you did not see before. Remember that there are positive and negative aspects of all cultures. 
  • Accentuate the positive. Try to identify what you like about both cultures and try to incorporate the best aspects of these into your life. 
  • Be patient with your friends and family who are trying to understand your recent experiences. Listen to them about the changes they underwent during the time you were away. 
  • Talk to your friends from home about the experience, but don't overdo it.
  • Set some long-term goals, which may involve finding ways to return abroad. 
  • Maintain friendships with your friends abroad.
  • Get involved! Connect with other returned students or international students at Princeton.

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