So there’s this thing called reverse culture shock, and it really sucks. Reverse culture shock is the process of re-adjusting to life back home after studying,living, or traveling abroad. Before a trip abroad, we’re so busy planning and packing to even think about what it will feel like upon returning stateside. During the traveling part, it’s all about living in the moment. That’s why we’re there, after all! I had the life-changing opportunity to study abroad three times in college. Each time I returned to the U.S., the process of adapting to life back home was grueling. A friend of mine just returned from studying in Spain and asked for my advice on how to get through that tough transition period. So here are 10 tips on how to overcome reverse culture shock from someone who’s been there:
1. Write everything down.
One of the best ways to preserve your memories of traveling abroad is to write them down. Writing can be therapeutic, and it’s great to look back years later when you’re old and senile and forgot you ever went to Prague that one time. But seriously, there’s no greater time of self discovery than when you go out, see the world, and become a student of life. Remember those priceless life lessons, people! After my semester abroad in Granada, it took me months to write down all of my favorite memories and experiences, but it was so worth it in the end.
2. Hang with the people you traveled with.
Part of the reason I had such a hard time adjusting to life after my solo backpacking trip is because I didn’t have anyone to reminisce with when I returned home. The best thing ever is coming home, missing Europe, and hanging out with the people who made it so wonderful in the first place. My friends who I lived in Spain with make it a point to have a “Tapas Night” once every couple of months so that we have the opportunity to eat tapas, drink sangria, and talk about the unforgettable memories we shared together while in Europe.
3. Stay in touch with your international friends.
One of the best parts about traveling is meeting inspiring, adventurous people along the way. Add them on Facebook, Instagram, etc. so that you can live vicariously through them if they’re still traveling and/or reminisce on the good times when you’re both back home. NOT TO MENTION you can meet up with your international peeps on your next traveling extravaganza.
4. Craft your heart out.
Scrapbook of all things Costa Rica? CHECK. World map crafted to perfection? You bet. Photo collage? Got two of them. Crafting keeps you busy as you face the atrocious pain of replacing pub crawls with real responsibility. Creative projects are time consuming and give you something to remember your travel adventures by. Pinterest your heart out, my friends!
5. Remember what you missed about home.
During my European backpacking trip, I remember sitting on a park bench after I missed the last bus out of town. Feeling dejected, I wrote down everything I couldn’t wait to do when I got back to U.S.A. The journal entry went something like: THINGS I CAN’T WAIT TO DO WHEN I GET BACK TO U.S.A:
- drive my car everywhere
- American meals with American portions
- free drink refills galore
- don’t have to carry this freaking backpack around everywhere
- have tons of clothes to wear
- sleep in my own bed
- see my best friends
- no more living through charades because of language barriers
- no more hostel showers thank god
6. Plan your next adventure.
Traveling abroad is empowering! You begin to realize that you really can do anything you put your mind to. Take this new found realization that anything is possible by planning your next journey. Better yet, explore local scenes with a new perspective. You don’t have to be across the world to embrace your adventurous spirit.
7. Consider a new career path.
Do you feel as if there’s no way you could go back to the slow-paced, small-town life you previously lived? Maybe you should consider working in a career field that requires frequent traveling. You might even want to consider working overseas. This may seem out of reach, but the truth is, you can do it! Just do the research, take the initiative, and live the life you want to live.
8. Continue learning.
Chances are you were in pursuit of some type of knowledge during your time abroad. You could’ve been learning German, perfecting your wine tasting skills, or finding inner peace in India. You can take this time to continue learning and improving.
9. Don’t expect them to understand.
A friend of mine told me about how difficult it was to get back into the swing of things after her six week trip to Uganda. During her time in Africa, she helped child soldiers who had gone through traumatizing experiences in the country’s civil unrest. Coming back to America and hearing her friends complain about the WiFi password being too long or other #firstworldproblems was the most frustrating thing for her. She had to learn to accept that her friends wouldn’t understand the profound experiences she went through and remember that she was the one who changed, not them. It’s not a bad thing to change. In fact, she changed for the better, but this realization helped her tremendously with the adjustment back to life at home.
10.Talk to a professional.
If months have gone by and you still can’t seem to get back in the groove of things, it’s perfectly OK to go to a therapist. If it’s gotten to this point, chances are you’ve exhausted all of your friends with your complaints and feel like you’re bringing them down. It’s always good to get unbiased, professional advice. College students- your university probably provides free counseling sessions in your student fees. Take advantage and love your mind, yall.