Returning Home, Harder Than You’d Think

People in airport
Author: Emily Grey

Before you go abroad you hear and learn all about culture shock and you also talk about re-entry and the possibility of reverse culture shock. But the idea of returning to a country and culture you grew up in or are extremely familiar with and feeling discomfort and unfamiliar seemed strange. Especially since I had only been abroad for five months. However, this is an experience I had returning back home. Now, it may not have been necessarily reverse culture shock by definition, but the feeling of discomfort and unfamiliarity was definitely felt upon my return home.

While you are abroad you make these incredible friends, have once in a life time opportunities and experiences and live a life style that is very different than what life back home is like. Living with roommates in dorm rooms is very different than living with your family, going traveling every weekend rather than working a part time job is different and ultimately living an exchange lifestyle is a very different experience. However, all these differences make exchange what it is supposed to be, an experience away from home. However, you do have to return home eventually.

When you return home, there’s this buzz, you just returned home, you have these incredible stories, you get to catch up with your friends and family and then the excitement wears off for them. You realize, people’s lives continued while you were away. Friends are in new relationships, have new jobs, or made new friends, coworkers have come and gone, classes have become more difficult and your family has continued their day to day lives. You have to adjust back into the lifestyle that never changed for them. And the excitement doesn’t wear off for you as quickly, the stories just keep coming. The littlest thing will make you say, “When I was on exchange…” And apparently these stories can get a little old after a while…

So how can you adjust from returning home from exchange? First off, keep in contact with your friends from abroad. If they have returned home they are probably experiencing the same thing as you. Also, students are returning to VIU from all over the world where they took part in exchange, so connect with them. The Exchange Agents program is a great opportunity to share experiences with other VIU students who know exactly what you are feeling. Also, it’s a whole new audience to share your stories with! VIU has an amazing community for anyone involved in Education Abroad programs. Also try and keep busy, life on exchange has a lot of excitement with new activities, traveling, being with friends and school. When you return home stay busy, otherwise you may dwell on the past semester rather than looking forward to what’s ahead.

Participating in an exchange is an incredible opportunity and there are so many ways to carry forward your experiences while you pursue your education and future goals.

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