UMaine Re-entry. What comes next?

What is Re-Entry

Just as every education abroad experience is different, people experience returning from their time abroad differently. Your education abroad experience no doubt had a huge impact on your life and this impact will show when you return home. This impact will have plenty of positives, but there may also be some struggles when you return home:

  • Remorse
  • Boredom
  • And reverse culture shock.

What exactly is reverse culture shock or re-entry shock though? R.M. Paige in her maximizing study abroad” work defines it as “the unexpected confrontation with the familiar.” You’ve spent so much time in another country, acclimating to a different culture, communities, and learning different modes of communication that, when faced with the suddenness of the familiar, navigating home is not as easy as what may have originally been thought.

Knowing and understanding how to cope with what you may experience when you return is a key way to navigating your re-entry. The Education Abroad Team has put together this Re-Entry page to help you navigate and settle back into your home country after your time abroad.

What You May Experience

You may find your original “normal” no longer as enjoyable as it once was. Things to occupy your time and attention may be harder to come by after your time in a foreign country.

Many people probably don’t expect this to happen, but friends and family may not be as interested in hearing about your time abroad and overcoming certain challenges. While initial interest is there about your highlights of abroad, further interest after hearing about it tends to fall away.

You may miss your host country and everything you said goodbye to upon your return home.

Just as friends and family lose interest in your stories from abroad, they may not be as keen on learning about or taking up cultures and customs that you’ve lived with for the duration of your time abroad.

Just as the friends and family you left behind while in your host country missed out on the experiences and adventures you had, you’ve also missed out on all of the experiences that they’ve had. This can be difficult to hear about and come to terms with, especially as you notice how relationships with family members and friends may have changed between each other and between yourself and them due to this absence.

People may fixate on small changes that you’ve acquired from your time abroad. They may also see these minor changes as “bad.” It’s best to keep in mind that these beliefs may be spurred by feelings of jealousy, fear, superiority and/or inferiority.

Just as you may have encountered this when you initially started your education abroad in your host country, you may experience cultural misunderstandings in your home country after your return. Things that might have been taken for jokes or sarcasm abroad may not be as readily received at home. Clothing styles may be frowned upon and use of foreign language could be seen as boasting, tying into the prior point of others feeling inferior.

Now that you’ve returned home, it may be difficult to find ways to apply the skills you acquired to navigate your host country in your home country. This can also include practicing and communicating in a foreign language if the country you stayed in spoke something other than English.

Many students find themselves struggling to hold onto their experience from abroad with all of these different aspects of re-entry pushing in on them. You may feel like you’re gradually losing your experience from your time abroad.

Re-entry can be a difficult aspect of your education abroad, but can be just as important as your time abroad. You can use your experience with reverse culture shock to apply the skills you’ve learned to navigate your host country to now navigate and adapt to your home country.

Ease Re-Entry and Culture Shock

You aren’t the only person out there who’s returned from an education abroad. A great way to help cope with your return is speaking with people who have also returned. Volunteer at university events like the Education Abroad fair, new student orientation days, or pre-departure meetings. Meet incoming international students at university events like the International Student Coffee hour the International Student Association hosts on Fridays. You could also join a language club at your university.

Whether you start an online blog, write a single post for your university’s webpage, or start a journal, writing about your time abroad can be a great way to preserve your experience and reflect on your time in your host country. You can view blog posts written by previous education abroad students below!

A peer advisor is a student who has completed an education abroad and returned ready to engage with their community, share their experience, and help peers reach their education abroad goals. Becoming a peer advisor is a great way to reflect on your time abroad and apply skills that you acquired in you host country in your day-to-day.

Some skills we are looking for in potential peer advisors are:

  • Organization
  • Communication
  • Creative Problem-solving
  • Social Media Navigation
  • Enthusiasm!

If this sound like you, take some time to apply today for the Fall 24 and/or 2024-25 academic year! The deadline to apply is June 24, 2024.

Apply to be a peer advisor!

Returning home and bursting with stories of your time abroad is common. Talking about it may be the only thing you want to do and, when things in your home country seem boring or mundane to you, it can be hard not bringing it up every chance you get. However, make sure to remember to check in with your friends and family and see how they’re doing and what they’ve been up to. Find out what you’ve missed while you’ve been gone. Just as you’re not the same from when you initially left, they aren’t the same person either. You all need to reacquaint yourself with one another.

It can become frustrating and difficult, but you will reacclimate to your life in your home country again, just remember to breathe and take it one day at a time.

Have a great story or experience to share? Contribute to our Education Abroad blog!