If you have been staying on top your study abroad to-do-list you have probably attended a general pre-departure orientation session by now! (If you have not please come to one ASAP- the last one will be April 29th and they are required!)
In these session we talk a lot about culture shock and how to prepare for it. What we don’t mention however, is what happens after the fact: reverse culture shock. Here is a blog entry from one of our study abroad peer advisors, Kelsey, on how reverse culture shock affected her after returning home from Russia.
And you thought going there was hard?!
Running around like a mad woman trying to pack up my life, heading out to D.C. for my orientation the next morning, I was ecstatic. This was going to be the time of my life and I was so ready to go abroad! I love to travel and experience new cultures, thus I already knew what was coming: culture shock. Plus, everyone had hammered it into me that I was going to suffer from culture shock when living abroad. So, with all of this running through my mind, I jumped in head first!
What I wasn’t ready for was setting foot on US soil again four months later. Not only was I devastated at leaving my home, family and friends in my little Russian town, but I was just blind-sighted with the blow of everyday life in America. Life here is just so different now. Why are we not riding the bus everyday or walking everywhere or sincerely asking how each other are, rather than using it as a superficial greeting? Why aren’t we shopping in big open air markets, daily talking with our neighbors and spending quality time with the ones we love? Why are we not internationally attune or even domestically astute? For all of these questions, I am still seeking answers.
Home just didn’t feel like “home” any more, almost in the sense that I didn’t understand why people in America did the things they did. In fact, I felt isolated and completely removed, even in class and with friends. I had experienced this amazing journey, and no one understood. No one was there with me that is here now, and all I wanted to scream as I walked through campus was “HELLO EVERYONE! I JUST GOT BACK FROM RUSSIA!!”
As time went on, I learned to accept that my experiences were of course unique, but other’s had similar ones they were dying to talk about as well. We have all changed and grown in new ways, but that doesn’t mean that no one understands me or that I am alone. It simply means that I had to find new ways to identify and really seek to understand how I had changed, so that I could better relate to other around me.
My study abroad experience changed my life and means the world to me, and I know in this, I am not alone! Just remember that dealing with the beast we term “culture shock,” you need to take a look inside yourself and keep an open mind with everyone else! Don’t worry, you’ll get through it!!