Re-adjustment Tips-Office of International Education - Carnegie Mellon University

Re-adjustment Tips

  1. When you go home, everything will look and feel familiar, but you may also feel that there is something out of place, you just cannot see it at first glance. Give your family and yourself time to work through what you are feeling.
  2. Take time out occasionally to think about what you are feeling, and how your view of your familiar home and culture have changed, and why. How have your perceptions changed because of your experience in another culture?
  3. Try to remember to respond slowly when you first return to your home and work. Do not try to change the way they do things because you saw a "better" way. Show them that you appreciate the way things are done locally, and as opportunities arise to integrate you new knowledge with the way things are done traditionally, do it. There is an old saying "You cannot push the river." Try to go slow and easy.
  4. Reserve judgment. Give yourself time to process what you learned, and think through the larger impact of introducing new ways of doing things.  What works in one situation may not work in another. Pick ideas that will work well for you, and discard those that will not.  Try new things, but not immediately.
  5. Try to be sensitive to other people's feelings. Are they really not interested in your experiences, or are they jealous because they have been waiting years for the same opportunity?
  6. Attempt to remain objective. Be careful about how you phrase your comments and criticism about your country. Many foreigners are shocked when they come to the U.S. about how free Americans are with criticism. Do not forget that it may not be acceptable to do the same at home.
  7. Expect a time of adjustment. Do not assume that because you are home the personal changes you have made will not pose some necessary adjustments. Remain flexible, keep laughing and try not to do too much too fast.
  8. Examine your personal values and the values of your home and host cultures. Living abroad provides a rare opportunity to see and understand your culture from a different perspective. Activities that help you understand your host culture will also help you understand your home culture better, and those insights can be very helpful when you return home.
  9. Think about your expectations. What benefits do you expect to gain from the completion of your program; what do you expect will happen when you return home? Discard unrealistic expectations and try to formulate those that recognize some of the ups and downs experienced by most people when they make major life changes.
  10. Spend time with others who can empathize and suggest ways to cope with re-entry stress as this can be helpful. A comforting thought is that almost all returnees share the difficulties you will encounter, and they manage to complete the cycle of adjustment successfully. Maintaining contact with friends overseas, whether by letter, telephone or electronic mail is a great way of coping with the breakdown of communication. The ultimate goal is to develop good relationships and intimate communication with friends and family. The psychological sojourn does not end until one has successfully overcome reverse culture shock. Try to remain positive.

Excerpts taken from The Advising Quarterly for Professionals in International Education; Number 27, Winter 1994

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Last Updated On: January 10, 2017