Stages of Reverse Culture Shock

Stage 1: Disengagement
Stage 2: Initial euphoria
Stage 3: Irritability and hostility
Stage 4: Readjustment and adaptation

Stage 1 begins before you leave your host country. you begin thinking about reentry and making your preparations for your return home. You also begin to realize that it's time to say goodbye to your friends abroad and to the place you've come to call home. The hustle and bustle of final, goodbye parties, and packing can intensify your feelings of sadness and frustration. You already miss the friends you've made and you are reluctant to leave. Or, you may make your last few days fly by so fast that you don't have time to reflect on your emotions and experiences.

Stage 2 usually begins shortly before departure, and it is characterized by feelings of excitement and anticipation- even euphoria - about returning home. This is very similar to the initial feelings of fascination and excitement you may have when you first entered your host country. You may be very happy to see your family and friends again, and they are also happy to see you. The length of this stage varies, and often ends with the realization that most people are not as interested in your experiences abroad as you had hoped. They will politely listen to your stories for a while, but you may find that soon they are ready to move on to the next topic of conversation. This is often one of the transitions to Stage 3.

Stage 3 You may experience feelings of frustration, anger, alienation, loneliness, disorientation, and helplessness and not understand exactly why. You might quickly become irritated or critical of others and of US culture. Depression, feeling like a stranger at home, and the ongoing to go back abroad are also not uncommon reactions. You may also feel less independent than you were while abroad. Most people are then able to move onto Stage 4.

Stage 4 is a gradual readjustment to life at home. Things will start to seem a little more normal again, and you will probably fall back into some old routines, but things won't be exactly the same as how you left them. You have most likely developed new attitudes, beliefs, habits as well as personal and professional goals, and you will see things differently now. the important thing is to try to incorporate the positive aspects of your international experience while abroad with the positive aspects of your life at home in the US.

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The best way to deal with reverse culture shock is to know how to recognize the signs of it, and to understand that it usually happens to most people who return from an extensive period abroad. If you are experiencing reverse culture shock, there are other post-study abroad students who are willing to talk with you. For more serious cases, the Study Abroad Office can also connect you with counseling