North Central College - Naperville, IL

Reverse Culture Shock

Foreigner in Own CountryStudies show that reverse culture shock can be a bigger obstacle upon students' return to their home country, than the culture shock they experience leaving home and going to their host country. North Central College students are no exception to the research that support this idea known as 'reverse culture shock.' To combat and support our students, North Central College's Office of International Programs offers a variety of programs, events, and opportunities that assist students in their transition home. Please use the left-hand navigation bar to view a list of our Re-Entry Events and Opportunities.



Top 10 Re-Entry Frustrations

(faced by most study abroad participants)

1.  Boredom  Not traveling to a new city or country every weekend your're overseas, but instead traveling from the NCC campus to the exciting city of Carol Stream, IL! It's just not as exciting as your life abroad.

2.  No one want to hear about this.   They get it. You lived abroad and had a great time. No one wants to see your photos or hear anymore about your experience.

3.  It's hard to explain.  The feeling you got when standing on the Great Wall in China, visiting that Buddhist Temple, or touring the Globe Theatre in London. You just had to be there.

4.  Reverse homesickness.  You miss your new friends, your new city, your new home abroad.

5.  Previous relationships have changed.  Your best friends are no longer dating and your friend group is split into two. In other news, you found out you're going to be an uncle/aunt! Believe it or not but the lives of your friends and family continued while you were gone.

6.  People see the "wrong" changes.  You: I'm so worldy and adventurous now!   Others: She thinks she knows everything about the world and is so stuck up now!

7.  People misunderstand if I adopt elements of my host culture; they misinterpret my behavior.   You now take an hour during your day to meditate because you picked up the habit when studying abroad in Thailand. You're friends think you are depressed and are withdrawing from your friend group.

8.  Feelings of alienation.  You just cannot connect the same way as you used to with your friends and family. New experiences mean a new you.

9.  Inability to apply new knowledge and skills.   You want to keep up your new Spanish language skills but no one you hangout with speaks Spanish and you're not a Spanish major or minor. How are you going to keep up your language skills?

10.  Fear of losing the experience, like storing it away in a souvenir box that we only occasionally look at.   You have next term's finals to think about and jobs to apply for after graduation. Keeping in touch with new friends you made abroad has suddenly fallen lower on your list of priorities.



Stages of Reverse Culture Shock

Stage 1:  Disengagement/Departure

While you are still overseas, you begin to start thinking about moving back home and moving away from your experience and friends abroad.


Stage 2:  Euphoria/The HoneymoonRCS

You may be very excited to be back home and others may be equally delighted to have you back. You have the opportunity to do, eat, see, smell and visit with all of those things that you missed while you were away from home. After people express their pleasure at seeing you again, and listen politely to your stories for a few minutes, you may suddenly and/or painfully realize that they are not particularly interested in what happened to you and would much rather prefer to talk about their own affairs.


Stage 3:  Alienation  

In this stage, you experience dampened euphoria with feelings of alienation, frustration and anger. You may even feel like an outsider – a foreigner in your own country. Suddenly you feel irritated with others and impatient with your own inability to do things as well or as quickly as you hoped. Resentment, loneliness, disorientation and even a sense of helplessness may pervade.


Stage 4:  Gradual Readjustment

The fourth stage of reentry includes a gradual readjustment to life at home. It is important to remember that the shock of returning home will eventually dissipate.



Top 10 Re-Entry Strategies

(we recommend to our returned study abroad students)

1. Come visit the NCC Office of International Programs. We are travel people, too. We want to see your photos, hear your stories and talk with you about your experiences abroad.

2. Become a Study Abroad Ambassador! Your experiences and perspectives are of great value to students contemplating a study abroad program. Being a Study Abroad Ambassador is a fun way to keep your experience alive by sharing it with others, plus it looks great on a resume. This is a paid position!

3. Participate in all of our NCC re-entry events.  Attend the Welcome Back Dinner and Retreat, mark your calendar for the Re-entry Conference, write an I-Story for our Study Abroad website, and submit your best photos for our Study Abroad Photo Contest!

4. Befriend a newly arrived international student or be a roommate with an international student. You might remember how difficult it was when you first arrived in your host-country and how nice it would have been to have a ‘friend’ available to help. For more information about international student “buddies,” International Club, and International Roommates Program contact the Office of International Programs.

5. Volunteer at any of the Study Abroad Events our office sponsors. We are constantly looking for energetic people to assist at the various events each semester. Most important, our annual Study Abroad Fair in October, and Pre-Departure Orientations in the spring term. These are valuable opportunities for you to share you experiences with interested students, and their parents.

6. Look into the various student clubs and organizations available at NCC, especially the International Club, Japan Club, Asian Student Konnection, International Business Club, Raza Unida, SIFE, etc. The International Club fosters relationships between international students and domestic students interested in “all things international” and promotes cross-cultural understanding across campus and in the community.

7. Share your email address with students interested in studying on the same program or in the same country as you by joining our General Resources List. Interested students love to email questions and hear first hand about overseas experiences. Your tips and insight will be very much appreciated.

8. Make a scrapbook of your travels. Include your memories along side the photos and souvenirs. You will treasure the scrapbook for years to come!

9.  Talk to your family, friends and support system.

10. Study Abroad Again! If you have the itch to go abroad again, contact Kimberly Larsson at or Whitney Ewing North Central College has 50 education abroad opportunities and we are happy to help you explore additional ways to get back overseas! Be a REPEAT OFFENDER!


Information paraphrased and/or borrowed from Study Abroad Handbook created by Rhona Cadenhead-Hames, Study Abroad Advisor at University of Buffalo.



Facebook Logo  Twitter Logo  Follow us!