Be aware that you may also experience culture shock upon your return home. For some students, this process begins even before leaving your host country.
Feelings of loss are common, as you prepare to leave your friends and life abroad. Readjusting to life at home may be difficult, and you may feel isolated since people at home may not be able to relate, or express as much interest in your experience as you would like. You may also struggle with an idealized view of home, expecting everything to be exactly the same as when you left, which may not be a reality. It is also common to feel a loss of independence, and to miss life abroad intensely. These feeling are very normal! Rely on support from family and friends and seek profesional help if necessary from the W&M Counseling Center or your personal physician.
If you experience reverse culture shock, it is important to remember that in time, things will slowly fall back into place and you will feel more at home in your home country. To ease your transition, look for ways to pursue your international interests, and meet people who have had experiences similar to your own. Get involved in some of the many internationally-focused clubs, organizations, and programs William & Mary has to offer.
Other strategies for long term language and cultural learning are:
- Continue your language and intercultural education through formal or informal instruction
- Involve your friends; host an international potluck dinner or themed party
- Write about your experiences in magazines and newsletters on and off campus
- Keep in touch with your international connections
- Make new international connections
- Seek out international volunteer and employment opportunities. Do not use your study abroad experience to decorate your resume, but find ways to add to it. Make yourself more marketable to employeers and graduate school admissions officers by being able to talk/write about what you gained from the experience.
Nevertheless, you may still find that you see things differently after studying abroad ... which, in fact, is the purpose of the experience. Time you spend abroad, and the people you meet while there, have the power to change your attitudes, beliefs, and perspectives; embrace these changes and find ways to integrate them into your life.