Undergraduate Study Abroad

Re-Entry & Cultural Adjustment

One of the greatest challenges of studying abroad is coming back home.

Many people expect to have difficulty adjusting when they go abroad, but no one expects to have problems when they get back home. This re-entry and cultural adjustment is often referred to as “re-entry shock”. You’ve just had an amazing experience abroad and you want to talk about it. Unfortunately, your parents and your friends may not be as interested as you would prefer. You’ve learned about a new culture and, chances are, you’ve changed some of your old values and ideas, and you may have trouble re-assimilating into American culture.

Re-entry can be tough, but remember, you’re a veteran of cultural adjustment. You’ve faced more difficult and trying situations and came out on top. You will re-adjust to life in the U.S. and to campus, too. 

Help with Re-adjusting

Life at Brown may look completely new to you after spending time abroad. Many students have difficulties re-adjusting to the hectic schedule and the stress on campus. Again, re-entry shock is inevitable, and even the best-prepared students will have some problems getting back into the swing of things. These suggestions might help you during your first few months back:

  • Remember what you did when you were abroad and adjusting to your new country. Use those same techniques that helped you cope then to assist you with your readjustment now.
  • Play the role of the observer, not a judge. It’s easy to criticize, much more difficult to understand. You’re looking at American culture from a very unique standpoint now. Take your time and think about what you see.
  • Expect to feel frustration and depression. Knowing this will happen will not prevent these feelings, but it will keep you from feeling overwhelmed.
  • Take your time. Don’t rush into big decisions if you’re depressed.
  • Become active with the our office.

Some suggestions for returned students include:

  • Attend a Returned Student Event held each semester to welcome you back to campus.

  • Apply to be a Peer Advisor! Study abroad alums are hired to to provide administrative support to the study abroad advising team, and serve as primary contacts for students interested in study abroad. Job openings are posted on Brown’s student employment website.

  • Volunteer at study abroad events and information sessions where you can share your study abroad experience and insights 

  • Join campus groups or activities with an international focus.

  • Connect with the local international community on- and off-campus through cultural events, volunteering and community service.

  • Go abroad again – consider summer studyfellowship, or investigate options for international work opportunities or internships abroad.

  • Integrate your study abroad experience into your program of study. Take courses that deal with issues you became interested in while abroad, or consider an independent study, senior thesis or research project that builds on your international experience.

Additional Topics

It’s never too early to start exploring professional development opportunities, especially now that you have returned from your study abroad experience with honed skills and new perspectives.
Now that you are back, it is likely that you will want to participate in internationally-focused activities. Below you’ll find some suggestions of how to maintain your global engagement through opportunities at Brown, in the local community, and beyond.