Students often find that the
adjustment to returning home is more difficult than to the foreign culture.
Students know their home, but may not realize how much they changed while
abroad and have different expectations at this point in the experience.
Students will go through reverse culture shock and it is in your best
interest to be aware of the source of negative feelings. In time, your
student will be able to incorporate an appreciation for the positive aspects of
the culture at home as well as abroad. Read some tips for what you can do as a
parent when your child returns home.
for Parents Welcoming Returnees Home
- Understand that "reverse culture shock" is a
real phenomenon and learn to recognize its symptoms so you can offer
appropriate support to the returnees.
- Realize that returning home is often not a predictable
process and can be more stressful than either the returnee or you
anticipate. Be prepared to offer support long-distance as s/he anticipates
coming home and especially after his or her return.
- Understand that most returnees are, in some ways,
different than they were before they left home. They may initially seem to
be "strangers." It is hard to know what their experiences have
meant to them and how they have changed. It may be necessary to
"renegotiate" your relationship with returnees, but your history
together will provide a basis for this process.
- Be aware of your own expectations of the returnees. You
may wish that they would just "fit back in" but it is more
helpful if you avoid forcing the returnees into old roles and
relationships. Allow them space and time to readjust and reconnect.
- Be conscious of all those things that have changed at
home. Help returnees to understand what has taken place both in the
society and among friends and family during his/her absence. Even if they
have heard about these events, the impact at home may not have been
obvious. You have much to tell them and they can tell you how events at
home looked from their overseas perspective.
- Avoid criticism, sarcasm, or mockery for seemingly odd
patterns of behavior, speech, or new attitudes.
- Create opportunities for the returnees to express their
opinions, tell their stories and show their pictures. Listen carefully and
try to understand the significance of their overseas experiences. Seek to
know what is important to them.
- Acknowledge that all returnees experience some sense of
loss. Strange as it may seem to others, returnees often grieve for what
they have left behind. They may be missing overseas friends, a stimulating
environment, the feeling of being special, experiencing greater freedoms
or responsibilities, or special privileges.
- Encourage the returnees to maintain personal and
professional contacts with friends and institutions in the former host
country. They will regret it if they do not.
- Offer to mark and celebrate the return of your friend,
sibling, or child. Discuss his or her preference for how and when to do
so. Be careful of "surprise" parties.
- Expect some critical comparisons of culture and
lifestyle. Keep your responses neutral. It can increase your chances to
learn something important about the returnees and how their world view has
changed. Don't take their comments personally.