Re-entry adjustment can manifest itself differently in everyone and can be very unsettling. Common feelings include:
• Initial excitement about being back that turns into irritability that, although you have changed so much while you were away, you are expected to jump right back into your old position and your old habits.
• Anxiety about academics that no longer feel dynamic and about how classes and skills you learned abroad no longer seem relevant at Lawrence.
• Boredom and frustration over the monotony that surrounds homework and daily activities.
• Frustration with people around you for not understanding the larger, global issues
• Feeling that you have changed so much when you were abroad that you no longer share all the opinions with your friends and family that you did when you left
• Stress related to friends and social groups that continued to grow, develop, and change while you were gone
• Strong desire to share your experiences but difficulty finding people who actually care enough to listen
Feeling these things is completely normal. Also, feeling extremely elated to be back at Lawrence and having a stress-free transition is also normal. Just as everyone experiences cultural adjustment differently when they go abroad, everyone experiences returning to campus differently.
How do you cope with re-entry cultural adjustment?
Keep an open mind
Think back to your first week off-campus; it was hard to adjust to living life in a different country, with different social and cultural assumptions, different habits, different manners, and possibly even a different language. Re-entry can be very similar. Keeping an open mind to how things make you feel, even to things that you know are supposed to be normal and enjoyable, can really help you understand where your anxiety is coming from.
Coming back from a different living situation, it is easy to get caught up in all the things that are different and to feel pessimistic about life in America (or in Appleton, specifically). Remember to keep an open mind. Make a list of things that are worrying you about being back in Appleton and make a list of the things that are making you relieved to be back home.
Take a deep breath
It is incredibly easy to get caught up in Lawrence’s fast pace and to loose yourself in the rush of classes, meetings, rehearsals, and practices. Lawrence is a busy place, but taking some time to calm yourself can be hugely beneficial. Carve out a 15-minute chunk of time once a week to just sit and think about your time off campus, write down your thoughts in a diary, or just look at pictures from your adventures. It's very important to take time to process your experience and not just put it behind you.
Try new things
Make some changes and test out the waters. It's easy to feel bored falling back into your old patterns at school, but challenge yourself to try something new! Find a new organization that interests you and join, or if you are already in numerous organizations, find ways of including your new perspective from off campus study into your times with them. This can also provide a space to be independent and showcase all of the amazing things that you came to love while off campus and all the ways that you have grown since you were last at Lawrence.
Take a look at Lawrence's list of organizations to see what kinds of new groups might be interesting to you! Be sure to take a look at groups who are focused on different cultures and traditions.
Keep in touch
Keep in contact with your host family and any friends you might have made while abroad. It may feel awkward or like you are pushing yourself back into their lives, but chances are they are feeling your absence very strongly and would be delighted to continue a relationship with you. Keeping in touch with close contacts from abroad can also help maintain language (and other) skills and make sure you feel like your adventures are still a part of your life at Lawrence.
Use your support structure
Although it may not always seem like it, your family and friends are here for you. It's often hard to explain your experience to someone who was not there with you and it may often feel like they are not interested in listening to your stories or hearing about your adventures. This does not mean that they do not care about you.Try to imagine how you would react in their position. Although they will maybe never understand the significance of some of your stories, they still want to support you. Sometimes its best to save long stories for people who have either been to your place of study or who express deep interest. You may be surprised by your friends' interest in your experiences! Your family and friends are also great people to turn to if you are feeling reverse culture shock. They can help you remember good things about your home and about Lawrence, and they can help support you through emotional periods.
Remember, the off-campus programs office is here to help! Attend one of our events or shoot firstname.lastname@example.org an email if there is anything that we can do to help as you transition back to campus.