Study Abroad

Culture Shock and Reentry

Culture Shock is a phenomenon that occurs when people spend a significant amount of time outside of their home culture. It has been described as an emotional high whereby the initial reaction to landing in a new and foreign place is to be very excited and awed by all that is new and different.  Once this initial period of excitement is over, it is not uncommon to experience frustration over these very differences resulting in feelings of loneliness, isolation, and/or depression.  These feelings may continue while one comes to terms with being so far away from home coupled with the struggles of understanding a new culture.These are the low times in which students may need extra support from their program provider and friends and family.

In time, however, the traveler comes to understand these differences and will begin to form important, new relationships while feeling more at ease with their new surroundings.  Eventually, the student who had at first grappled with the emotional lows and highs of culture shock transforms into bi-cultural individual - which is our goal, after all - able to successfully live in both worlds. It is important to note that various stages of culture shock can resurface at any given time, depending on circumstances.

It is also common for students to experience culture shock in different degrees.  This is contingent upon on a student's personal background; past travel experiences; with whom they are traveling; where they are traveling to; and their overall personality.  This is no cause for alarm, but rather a natural part of the student's growth process.

In addition, students often experience "reverse culture shock" upon re-entry into the United States as they begin to see the U.S. from a new perspective. Students may again feel lonely and isolated as they try to internalize this new perspective and often find it difficult to communicate with others about what their life-changing experiences were like overseas. Again, friends and family are very important at this stage as they can provide an attentive ear to help the student process their new outlook.