Reverse Culture Shock

Reverse Culture Shock

Studies show that reverse culture shock can be a bigger obstacle upon students' return to their home country, than the culture shock they experience leaving home and going to their host country. North Central College students are no exception to the research that supports this idea known as 'reverse culture shock.' To combat and support our students, North Central College's Center for Global Education offers a variety of programs, events, and opportunities that assist students in their transition home. To view our list of Re-Entry Events and Opportunities, please visit the 'Returned Students' section on the study abroad website.

Below you will find the summarized descriptions of the stages of reverse culture shock, as well as some of the top ten frustrations we see in our students when they return to the States and NCC. You will also see below ten re-entry strategies designed to help students overcome and cope with their reverse culture shock. Similar to culture shock, some students experience little or no reverse culture shock, while others strongly experience it. Either way, students are generally excited to share their experiences from abroad, which is a great way to combat reverse culture shock!

Stages of Reverse Culture Shock

Stage 1: Disengagement/Departure

While a student is still overseas, he/she will start thinking about moving back home and moving away from their experience and the friends they acquired abroad.

Stage 2: Euphoria/The Honeymoon

A student may be very excited to be back home and to do, eat, see, smell and visit with all of those things/people they missed while away. In general, people usually express their pleasure when seeing a recently returned study abroad student, listening politely to their stories and asking general questions for a few minutes. After those few minutes, a recent returnee may painfully realize that their friends/family are not particularly interested in their experiences abroad and have very little time to listen.

Stage 3: Alienation

At this stage, a recent returnee may experience dampened euphoria with feelings of alienation, frustration and even anger. Students may feel like outsiders in their own country. This could result in irritation with family/friends, as well as impatience with their own ability to do things as well or as quickly as they had hoped. Resentment, loneliness, disorientation and even a sense of helplessness may pervade. 

Stage 4: Gradual Readjustment

The fourth stage of re-entry includes a gradual readjustment of a student back to life at home, on their home campus and in the U.S. It is important for a student to remember that the shock of returning home will gradually dissipate over time and with the implementation of some key re-entry strategies!

Top 10 Re-Entry Frustrations 

(faced by most study abroad participants)

  1. Boredom
  2. No one wants to hear about my experiences
  3. It's hard to explain
  4. Reverse homesickness
  5. Previous relationships have changed
  6. People see the 'wrong' changes
  7. People misunderstand if I adopt elements of my host culture; they misinterpret my behavior
  8. Feelings of alienation; seeing home with new eyes
  9. inability to apply new knowledge and skills
  10. Fear of losing the experience, like storing it away in a souvenir box that we only occasionally look at

Top 10 Re-Entry Strategies

(we recommend to our returned study abroad students)

  1. Come visit the NCC Center for Global Education. We are travel people, too. We want to see your photos, hear your stories and talk with you about your experiences abroad.
  2. Become an Education Abroad Ambassador! Your experiences and perspectives are of great value to students contemplating a study abroad program. Being an Education Abroad Ambassador is a fun way to keep your experience alive by sharing it with others, plus it looks great on a resume. This is a paid position!
  3. Participate in all of our NCC re-entry events. Attend the Welcome Back Reception, mark your calendar for the Re-entry Conference, write an I-Story for our Education Abroad website, and submit your best photos for our Education Abroad Photo Contest.
  4. Befriend a newly arrived international student or be a roommate with an international student. You might remember how difficult it was when you first arrived in your host-country and how nice it would be to have a 'friend' available to help. For more information about international student "buddies," International Club, and International Roommates Program, contact the Center for Global Education.
  5. Volunteer at any of the international events our center sponsors. We are constantly looking for energetic people to assist at the various events each semester. Most importantly, our annual Education Abroad Fair in October and Pre-Departure Orientations during the fall and/or spring semesters. These are valuable opportunities for you to share your experiences with interested students, families, and community members.
  6. Look into the various student clubs and organizations available at NCC, especially the International Club, Japan Club, Asian Student Konnection, International Business Club, Raza Unida, SIFE, etc. The International Club fosters relationships between international students and domestic students interested in "all things international" and promotes cross-cultural understanding across campus and in the community.
  7. Share your email address with students interested in studying on the same program or in the same country as you by joining our General Resources List. Interested students appreciate the opportunity to email questions and hear first-hand about overseas experiences. Your tips and insight will be very helpful. 
  8. Make a scrapbook of your travels. Include your memories along side the photos and souvenirs. You will treasure the scrapbook for years to come!
  9. Talk to your family, friends and support system.
  10. Study Abroad Again! If you have the itch to go abroad again, contact Rachel Birkley at or Kimberly Larsson at North Central College has approximately 50 education abroad opportunities and we are happy to help you explore additional ways to get back overseas! Be a REPEAT OFFENDER!