Returning Home After Studying Abroad: Challenges and Solutions

Facing the challenges of returning home after studying abroad

Some prospective international students might be put off by the potential challenges of returning home after studying abroad. Even those who might already be studying abroad sometimes dread this moment. For both of those groups, we have decided to write this article exploring what some of these challenges might be and how best they might be navigated. Although most of these are not as difficult as things you might find abroad, they can be quite disorientating for certain people and so we have decided to put your fears to rest.

1. Reverse culture shock

We have already talked about culture shock in the past, but what about reverse culture shock? When international students get back home, it is not rare that they find themselves feeling a little overwhelmed with certain aspects of their own culture which they have forgotten about. Getting too acclimatized to the culture of the country you go to study in can have the consequence of estranging you somewhat in relation to your own.

SOLUTION: Take it easy. Gradually re-immerse yourself into your old culture. Your appreciation of it is still there but dormant. Expect there to be some frustration and accept it as part of the process. It will no doubt take you a couple of weeks or even months to feel comfortable once again in your own customs and traditions, but it will inevitably happen. Taking some cultural artefacts abroad or practising certain aspects of your culture in the meantime can make this transition even easier.

2. Difficulty connecting with family and friends

Returning home after studying abroad can confront us with the uncomfortable truth that, although we like hearing from our loved ones while abroad from time to time, we can have quite a difficult time interacting with them once we are back in earnest. Our friends might not be able to appreciate our experiences abroad fully and we may feel forced into our old identities by certain close family members. There can be a sense of having outgrown your home environment.

SOLUTION: The best way to approach this issue is with patience and understanding. Your loved ones have unfortunately not had the same experience you did while abroad and it will once again take some time and a little bit of effort to bridge that gap. In a certain way, you will need to re-introduce certain aspects of yourselves to each other.

3. Career difficulties

Despite the many benefits that studying abroad offers in terms of career development, some students have trouble marketing the skills they have obtained after returning home from studying abroad. This is mostly due to issues with demand in their current location and not directly related to the marketability of their newly-found skills. Some students find it discouraging that certain useful approaches and methods that they have been able to employ when working on their academics do not really cut it now.

SOLUTION: One of the ways to tackle this challenge is to simply find better ways to market yourself. The skills you will acquire abroad are no doubt incredibly useful and it is often merely a matter of making a potential employer see that. Alternatively, consider getting employed online or in a different city in your home country. Depending on where you are, there might not simply be any demand for your sophisticated skillset.

4. Boredom

Even though family, friends, and familiar routines are pleasant and reassuring, they may feel rather boring after all the excitement and novelty of your time spent overseas. It is normal to miss the excitement and challenges that come with studying abroad, but it is up to you to figure out how to get over these bad feelings; after all, boring people are equally uninteresting. While this can also be considered a testament to the excitement that studying abroad can bring, it is nevertheless a real thing that returnees struggle with.

SOLUTION: Rediscover the comfort in your old routines. Realize that you now have the opportunity to take a break from the craziness of university and just enjoy your life for a bit. The excitement will come back to you as you deal with all of the challenges of living back home again.

5. Fear of compartmentalization

When returning home after studying abroad, people frequently worry that they will somehow “lose” the experience when they are at home and deal with the demands of their jobs, families, and friends. Many fear that it will somehow get segregated, much like trinkets or picture albums that are stored in a box and are only sometimes taken out and examined. This precious experience might get relegated to a distant part of one’s mind where it is only occasionally remembered amidst the turmoil of everyday life.

SOLUTION: You do not have to let this happen if you keep up your contacts overseas, look for and speak with individuals who have gone through similar things, hone your cross-cultural abilities, and keep learning languages. Recall and celebrate the fun you had while traveling as well as your hard work.

Do not get discouraged

The only reason we speak of these challenges in the first place is because the experience of studying abroad is so wonderful and vibrant that coming back home can sometimes feel underwhelming in comparison. However, this should not be a reason to avoid studying abroad. Not all people experience these issues and, if you do, then simply apply our strategies here and you will find yourself thriving in your home environment while having an electric appreciation for your time spent abroad.

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  • 6 March, 2024