On Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock

To begin with, I think most people severely underestimate the effects of reverse culture shock. People who haven’t experienced it (including myself before I knew what it was) would expect the return home to be a positive experience, even a relief after being away for a while. This can be the case for some, and a short evaluation of reverse culture shock is that it widely varies per person based on their experiences abroad, their return environment, and their personal context (for a full list of conditions and more information on reverse culture shock go to http://www.state.gov/m/fsi/tc/c56075.htm ), but overall it is overlooked by those around us who haven’t had the experiences themselves. I will not speak for others on my program, although I’m sure that in some aspects we can all relate, but the return back has been far less than easy. After having such incredible experiences, it is natural to want to share them with anyone and everyone, but equally naturally, no one will be as interested in hearing as you will be in telling and that can be hard. It feels a lot like no one understands you, and in many cases, you are expected to be the same, to fit perfectly back into the hole you left vacant for a semester. But not only did your environment change while you were away, you did too. For me these realities have been especially hard to deal with. Like I said, the severity of each case of reverse culture shock will vary per person, but at least for me, as someone who was dreading the return, I’ve dealt especially with withdrawal, lack of motivation, and resistance to this culture. A criticism I have for what I have found on reverse culture shock is that as I was preparing to leave and investigating what I could expect in terms of this shock, they all lacked suggestions for a smoother reentry. In fact, their solution to readjustment was quite simply recognize that many things have changed and adjust to your new surroundings, which is far from a solution, and in fact that is only a restatement of the issue at hand. In certain settings, maybe there is little to nothing to do to ease the transition but in regards to this program, and most study abroad programs, I can think of several great examples to make this transition as easy as it can be. Since a lot of the issues are lacking an outlet for those experiences, stay in contact with the other students who were in your program and the friends you made while abroad. It can be hard to coordinate schedules with our busy lives but sitting down to reminisce on our experiences can be one of the best outlets for the struggles of reverse culture shock. A specific outlet for me has been my Spanish translation class. Although I no longer need to take Spanish classes for my major, I knew it would be a good way to stay connected to Argentina and I am translating a video from the Comisión Provincial por la Memoria as my final project. Finding something you are passionate about from your abroad experience that will help you stay connected with it post-return is crucial for a smooth return, whether that be a Spanish class, Latin American History, an activist group, research for personal or academic purposes, etc. Above all, the struggles of reverse culture shock by no means outweigh the benefits of having the experiences. The best way to think about the return is by recognizing that these changes you see and the difficulties you face only represent that your perspectives have been challenged. You can and will utilize these changes with time to bring in unique thoughts in academic settings, and broadened mindsets when facing the challenges of the world.