Returning Home

If you have been overseas for a considerable amount of time, returning home from studying abroad can require just as much adjustment as the study abroad experience itself.  Readjusting to life and classes at Lyon College can also take time.  However, the coping skills and intercultural awareness which students gain while studying abroad can provide a foundation for handling re-entry.

In addition, the College can be a resource in helping returnees channel their newly acquired international interests.  Specifically, the Office of International Education, your academic advisor and department can be strong assets in steering you towards resources for re-entry.

Lyon is a College environment that values and thrives on contributions from its global citizens.  Study Abroad enables students to return to Lyon and share their unique experiences and developed global consciousness with the entire community.  We welcome the sharing of knowledge of global issues and international perspectives and enriching cultural experiences.

What appear in this section of our website are discussions of challenges typical of study abroad returnees, suggestions for dealing with these challenges, and related resources. Sources for information in this section include the University of the Pacific, the University of Denver, UCSD, SIT, and the University of Washington St. Louis.

Reverse Culture Shock & Re-entry

Cultural Readjustment

Before heading abroad you heard about Culture Shock, and likely experienced it to some degree (large or small) while abroad. Upon returning home after an extended time abroad, many individuals experience what's known as Reverse or Re-Entry Culture Shock. You may find yourself passing through the same cycles of culture shock experienced abroad that are outlined in this document:

  • Initial Euphoria: This is the "honeymoon phase" of being home. You are happy to see friends and family and enjoy some of the comforts and familiar foods that you perhaps missed while abroad.

  • Cultural Confrontation: Initial excitement diminishes as cultural adjustment to life back home begins.

  • Cultural Adjustment

  • Cultural Adaptation

For some, reverse culture shock can be even more intense than the culture shock they experienced abroad. Many students find they were expecting some difficulties to adjusting to life abroad, but were NOT expecting it to be difficult to re-integrate to life back home, in what had previously felt comfortable and familiar.

Strategies and Resources for Adapting When You Return

As you reflect on your time abroad and how best to integrate your international experience with life back at Lyon, we encourage you to make use of the following resources. The various links below from a variety of sources provide additional information on re-entry, including additional information on reverse culture shock, strategies for adapting to life back home, and suggestions on how to integrate your experiences abroad into life back home. 


Lyon also offers a number of resources to help students who have returned from abroad adjust to life back on campus and to think about ways to integrate your new experiences and perspectives into your personal life, as well as your academic and career pathways.

  • OIE- Meet with the Director! I am happy to hear from students when they are back from abroad. I have lived and spent extensive time abroad and understand the challenges that can come with returning home, as well as the desire to keep your international experience alive! I am also interested in hearing any suggestions you might have for improving the study abroad experience, and am willing to serve as a resource in organizing group activities for groups of returnees. Finally, the Office of International Education (OIE) is always eager to utilize the valuable resource of returned study abroad to communicate the details of particular overseas sites to other students who are considering study abroad or simply to endorse confirm the positive impact of study abroad.

  • Lyon College Counseling Center -  Individual appointments are available as well as group programming and sessions.

  • Faculty Advisors- Has study abroad led you to rethink your academic goals? Meet with your faculty advisor to talk about ways to incorporate global perspectives, new found passions and goals into your academic pursuits.

  • Lyon College Career Center - How do you plan on incorporating your study abroad experience into your career plans and job search? A career counselor can help you to appropriately incorporate your experience abroad into your resume, cover letter, and job interviews, as well as to evaluate and consider different career goals and pathways. 

While one of the best ways to adapt and keep your new-found passions from your time abroad alive is to find ways to engage at home, you can also explore other ways to go abroad, be it through another academic term abroad if that fits into your academic schedule (Visit the OIE and check out OIE website for the most up to date information.) 

*Reverse Culture Shock Tip: Incorporate what you've learned abroad into your everyday life back home and into your life and work as a student and live out your commitment to global citizenship. See the next section for some ideas around opportunities to engage with the international community on-campus.

 How do I assess and articulate the skills I learned?

Chances are you learned something about yourself, the world, and your area of study while you were abroad. Sometimes it can be difficult to get a realistic idea of what you’ve learned and to put it into words. Taking the time to reflect and think about what you learned can help you articulate skills, supported by specific examples, that will help you personally, academically, and professionally in the future. Here are some resources to help you in your efforts:

How Can I Go Abroad Again?

If you’ve caught the travel bug and can’t wait to go abroad again, take a look at the following programs and resources(From UCSD study abroad website):

Challenges You May Encounter Upon Return

Sometimes the most challenging aspect of a student’s study abroad experience can be returning home. The list below from Professor Bruce La Brack at the University of the Pacific details some of the most common re-entry challenges for students returning from study abroad from this site

1. Boredom

After all the newness and stimulation of a student’s time abroad, the return to family, friends, and old routines (however nice and comforting) can seem very dull. It is natural to miss the excitement and challenges that characterize study in a foreign country, but it is up to the student to find ways to overcome such negative reactions and keep in mind that a bored person is also boring.

2. "No One Wants to Hear"

One thing students can count on upon their return: no one will be as interested in hearing about their adventures and triumphs as they will be in sharing those experiences. This should not be considered a rejection of them or their achievements abroad. However, once others have heard the highlights of students’ experiences, further interest on the audiences’ part is probably unlikely. Students should be realistic in their expectations of how fascinating their journey is going to be for everyone else. They should be brief in their descriptions.

3. They Can’t Explain

Even when given a chance to explain all the sights and feelings of their study abroad experience, students are unlikely to be able to relay them coherently. It is very difficult to convey this kind of experience to those who do not have similar frames of reference or travel backgrounds, no matter how sympathetic they are as listeners. Students can tell people about their trip, but may fail to make others understand exactly how or why they felt a particular way. This is okay.

4. Reverse "Homesickness"

Just as students probably missed home for a time after going abroad, it is just as natural to experience some "reverse" homesickness for the people, places, and things that they grew accustomed to as a student overseas. To an extent, this feeling can be reduced by writing letters or email messages, telephoning, and generally keeping in contact. Feelings of loss are an integral part of international sojourns and must be anticipated and accepted as a natural result of study abroad.

5. Relationships Have Changed

It is inevitable that when students return, they will notice that some relationships with friends and family will have changed. Just as they have altered some of their ideas and attitudes while abroad, the people at home are likely to have experienced some changes. These changes may be positive or negative, but expecting that no change will have occurred is unrealistic. The best preparation is flexibility, openness, minimal preconceptions, and tempered optimism.

6. People See the "Wrong" Changes

Sometimes people may concentrate on small alterations in returned students’ behavior or ideas and seem threatened or upset by these changes. Others may ascribe any “bad” traits to the influence of their time abroad. These incidents may be motivated by jealousy, fear, or feelings of superiority or inferiority. To avoid or minimize such reactions, it is necessary for returned students to monitor themselves and be aware of the reactions of those around them, especially in the first few weeks following their return. Normally, this phase passes quickly if students do nothing to confirm others’ stereotypes.

7. People Misunderstand

A few people will misinterpret students’ words or actions in such a way that communication is difficult. For example, what students may have come to think of as humor (particularly sarcasm, banter, etc.) and ways to show affection or establish conversation may not be seen as wit, but aggression or “showing off.”  Offers of help in the kitchen can be seen as criticism of food preparation, new clothing styles may be seen as provocative or inappropriate, references to their host country or use of a foreign language as boasting. Students should be aware of how they may look to others and how their behavior is likely to be interpreted.

8. Feelings of Alienation/Critical Eyes

Sometimes the reality of being back "home" is not as natural or enjoyable as the place the students had constructed as their mental image. When real daily life is less enjoyable or more demanding than they had remembered, it is natural to feel some alienation, see faults in the society they never noticed before, or even become quite critical of everyone and everything for a time. This is no different than when they first left home. Mental comparisons are fine, but students should keep these observations to themselves until they regain a balanced cultural perspective.

9. Inability to Apply New Knowledge and Skills

Many returnees are frustrated by the lack of opportunity to apply newly gained social, linguistic, and practical coping skills that appear to be unnecessary or irrelevant. To avoid ongoing annoyance, students should adjust to reality as necessary, change what is possible, be creative and patient, and above all, use the cross-cultural adjustment skills they acquired abroad to assist their own re-entry.

10. Loss/Compartmentalization of Experience

Being home, coupled with the pressures of job, family, and friends, often combine to make returning students worry that somehow they will "lose" the experience, that it will become compartmentalized like souvenirs or photo albums. Students do not have to let that happen. They should maintain their contacts and also talk with people who have had similar experiences. They should practice their language skills and remember and honor both their hard work and the fun they had while abroad.

Adjusting to life back home can be a process, eventually though, it's possible to reconcile your new self and your old life, and identify ways in which to keep your study abroad experience alive. Don't feel like study abroad has to go in a box on a shelf! Give yourself time to reflect on your abroad experiences and think about ways to integrate what you cherish from your time abroad into your life back home and moving forward. You've had an amazing experience, gained new skills, knowledge and perspectives, and grown in ways that you might not yet even recognize. Find ways to harness that energy and to integrate what you've gained from your time abroad into your path moving forward. 

Additional Reentry Resources




  • L’Auberge Espagnole is a movie about a French student studying abroad for a year in Spain. The film shows us a range of his experiences — preparing to study abroad, the joys and challenges of adjusting to a new culture, and his conflicted feelings about returning home. Available on Amazon.


Small Planet Studio: A website dedicated to re-entry, repatriation, and reverse culture shock after living, working, and studying abroad

(information from Portland College)