You're back, and it's so great to be home again! Or is it? After the initial happiness of being surrounded by familiarity, maybe you are feeling a bit strange now. Or, maybe you need to know how to talk about your experiences when searching for jobs. Maybe you're interested in moving back abroad instead. No worries, you're not alone in all of this, and there are several things you can do to help yourself out.
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Culture shock is hard, but dealing with reverse culture shock can be even harder because you don’t expect it. Reverse culture shock happens when you head home after integrating into your host culture. It can certainly be strange to realize that the world back home moved on without you and things may have changed. You may find yourself craving foods from your host country, or suddenly find yourself critical of your home country. It can also feel really lonely. You’ll realize that many people don’t want to talk about your study abroad experience 24/7. But just like culture shock, this too shall pass. Here’s how to deal in the meantime.
1. Expect reverse culture shock to happen
You might be surprised at how weird it can be to re-enter your home country, especially the longer you’ve been away. But reverse culture shock happens, and there’s not much you can do to stop it.
2. Stay connected with your new friends abroad
Use social media and video chatting to keep in touch with the friends you've made while away. Or, bond with friends from home who are returning from their own study abroad experiences. These friends will be more interested in hearing you talk about your time abroad and how it's affected your life. It’s not that others don’t care about your happiness, it’s just hard for some people to relate if they’ve never been abroad themselves. With apps like WhatsApp and Insta, there’s no excuse for losing touch.
3. Write out your feelings
Journaling it out can feel amazing when you feel like no one wants to listen, but don’t be afraid to think bigger! Online magazines and travel blogs might be looking for people to share their experiences. You could even start a travel channel on YouTube or a travel-inspired Instagram. If studying abroad changed your life, look for ways in which you can talk more about it.
4. Recreate your routine from abroad back home
When you return home, you may feel dazed and confused without your lifestyle abroad. If you find it helpful, continue any routines you established there back home. If you woke up at 6 am to run in France, do the same thing at home! Of course, it’s impossible to recreate your life abroad at home, but establishing a routine again can be a helpful coping mechanism.
5. Plan a trip back!
It’s normal to want to return to your host culture and study abroad adventure. You might even feel a bit critical of your home culture once back. But know that you can and should return to your host country. It’s just goodbye for now, not forever!
Now that you’re back, it’s time to take advantage of your new experience. Studying abroad exposes you to new people and ideas, and this is a huge plus for employers in our global society.
If you graduated from an international program, you can easily list that degree under the education part of your resume. If you studied abroad for several months but didn’t get an entire degree abroad, it can be a bit trickier to determine where and how on your resume to show you studied abroad. Many students list their shorter program under education as well. You can also list it under work experience or volunteer experience if your program was more relevant to those categories.
If you had a part-time internship or job, you can definitely count it as work experience. If you spent time as a volunteer abroad, be sure to list that experience too. Studying abroad provides you with skills that employers want. These skills include the ability to communicate with people from different cultures or language skills. Highlighting these will make you stand out from other job applicants.
If you can smoothly bring up your study abroad experience in a job interview, do it! If employers ask about your education, you can and should bring up your study abroad experience. You can also talk about specific experiences from studying abroad in other parts of the interview.
For example, if they ask about your strengths, perhaps you could give examples of your ability to communicate across cultures from spending time abroad. When they ask about a time you overcame challenges, you could briefly describe challenging moments abroad as well. However, be careful and don't share too much. All of your examples do need to be appropriate to the job you’re applying for. Spend some time brainstorming before the interview and take some notes of some relevant experiences you could bring up.
Perhaps you absolutely loved studying abroad and now you want to stay. Don’t get ahead of yourself – there are likely legal barriers you’ll have to face first, and they will vary widely based both on your nationality and the country you wish to stay in.
You may be able to make the move easily if your country has an agreement with another country. For example, if you are from the EU, you have more freedom of movement than most. If you need a visa to stay in a country, it won't be as easy. Here are some steps you might take as you navigate this process.
First, realize that just because you want to stay, it doesn’t mean you can. You'll need something akin to a work visa, which is much harder to get than a tourist visa (often 3-6 months long) or another student visa. Some countries also have strict immigration policies, with visa processes that are both long and selective. Do some research to see what your limitations are, and know that you can always come back as a visitor. You don’t have to permanently move to a country to make that culture part of your life.
Do as much research as possible
Start with your country’s immigration or state department website. Look for people who have made the move from your home country and ask questions about how they did it. You likely will have to prepare for months or years in advance if you want to make this sort of move permanently.
Determine which visas and residence permits you might be eligible for
Most countries have dozens of visa types, and most won’t apply to you. Look into work or internship visas, student visas, and if you have a foreign partner, visas that are based on relationships or marriage. Depending on your nationality, there could be working-holiday visas available as well.
Apply for the visa
There are usually many requirements you will have to organize during this process. Depending on the visa type, you may be required to have a sponsor who can vouch for you. You might have to undergo a medical exam, attend an interview, or provide bank statements. This can get long and complicated! If you intend to get a work visa, you'll likely need to be sponsored by a company. This isn't easy, as many countries restrict work visas to certain in-demand professions. However, countries are extremely varied in the strictness of their immigration policies, so don’t give up! Though it can take a lot of time to move to your dream country, by doing research and planning carefully, you can hopefully make it happen.
Look into studying abroad again
If all else fails, there could be another option. If you have already finished your Bachelor's program abroad, why not look towards your Master's? With a higher degree and many countries offering job-searching visas for recent graduates, you might have an easier time staying abroad after you finish. Networking and finding internships during your studies can give you a solid pathway into a future career abroad.
How to Study Abroad Guide: Overview
We know it's difficult to get started. In this guide, we’ll explain how to study abroad in full, from how to pick a program to how to bounce back from homesickness, and everything in between!
Why Study Abroad?
There are so many reasons why study abroad programs are life-changing experiences for many international students. Learn more about how studying abroad can help build your future.
What Can I Study Abroad?
Wondering about what you can study abroad? This section of the How to Study Abroad Guide will talk about the different kinds of degrees and programs you can study overseas.
Preparing For Study Abroad
Now that you have chosen a program and received your acceptance, where do you go from there? Discover more about housing, budgeting, and packing for your overseas travels in this section of the guide.
What to Do When You Arrive
Do you have your ticket abroad but need to know what to do on arrival? Learn how to navigate your first few days in a new country and also what to expect as you are adjusting to a new culture and society.