What is Re-Entry Adjustment?
(Taken from University of Minnesota’s Learning Abroad Center: Re-Entry Adjustment; and adapted from (p. 145) in Maximizing Study Abroad: A Students’ Guide to Strategies for Language and Culture Learning and Use.)
The unsettled feeling that can accompany your return from abroad is what some refer to as “re-entry adjustment.” It’s a very common reaction for students coming home from studying abroad. Your reactions to readjusting to life in the U.S. may vary among the ways other study abroad students react. These reactions can include one or more of the following:
- Uncertainty, Confusion about the future
- Isolation, Wanting to be alone
- Reverse homesickness: missing the people, places, attitudes or lifestyles of your host country
- Changes in life goals and priorities
- Negativity or intolerance towards the U.S., including U.S. American behavior, attitudes, customs and common social practices.
Eighty-five percent of people returning home have some kind of difficulty with re-entry , and of those, 15% have more serious d adjusting. How you experience re-entry adjustments can depend on:
- The length of time you were abroad
- Where you studied abroad (Western cultures vs. non-Western cultures)
- Your personality
- If you had studied or lived abroad before
If you’re having difficulty with your return, think back to the adjustments you made to succeed while you were abroad. These same skills can help you in coming home. Remember the “W”curve of cultural adjustment – the initial euphoria, followed by criticism, followed by general acceptance and understanding of the new culture? The same pattern applies to re-entry. The coping skills and strategies that were successful in helping you adjust to your overseas culture will be just as helpful in making the return home:
- Get involved with activities that you enjoy.
- Identify/Join/Look for a support group with other study abroad students.
- Suspend judgment of others.
- Keep a journal of your observations and don’t forget to keep a sense of humor.
- If you are experiencing major difficulty of re-entry, seek out professional help on your home campus.
- Give yourself time (and permission) to reflect on how this experience has changed you.
Remember that after experiencing a different environment, it’s natural to have a different view of the U.S. This is the primary goal of the study abroad program.
It’s important to understand that each culture and country has its own systems of functioning. You may appreciate certain aspects of your host culture but dislike others. The same is likely true of your perspective of the U.S. now that you’ve returned.
Re-entry is different for everyone. However, there are some common re-adjustment issues that study abroad students report:
- Personal Growth and Change -You may have experienced a challenge to your beliefs, convictions, values, and world view while you were immersed in a different culture. You may also have experienced more academic freedom and personal independence. You may feel that you have matured and become more self-confident. One of the greatest challenges of re-entry is having to adjust your new self to old home.
- New Knowledge and Skills – You have probably developed new skills that helped you survive in your everyday life overseas, such as learning to find your way around a new city, to act in a culturally appropriate manner, and to converse about your new subjects, and of course, your foreign language skills.
Relationships with Family and Friends – It can be difficult to deal with family and friends once you return home. It’s important to realize that other people did not stay the same while you were gone. Perhaps the most difficult and common issue is telling others about your experience abroad, beyond the polite inquiries and questions. Friends and family may not seem all that interested in hearing about your experience.
Now that you have gotten your feet wet in the world of international travel, let the Roukema Center for International Education help guide you towards additional overseas study, intern, work or volunteer opportunities.