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Most Memorable Experience

I travelled in four different countries, climbed Machu Picchu and Glacier Perito Moreno, took classes in a different language, made new friends and found my way around the chaotic city of Buenos Aires. However, some of the best days abroad involved getting on and off the right bus or providing an Argentine with accurate directions. The sense of accomplishment from those little things made the whole experience that much better.

Julie-Ann Spatz

Legal Studies, Criminal Justice Certificate
IAP Buenos Aires, Argentina

Understanding Cultural Readjustment

Getting used to a new culture can be tough, even when it's your own!

A good deal of time is spent encouraging you to prepare for your study abroad experience and the adjustment to a new culture. It's important to realize virtually everyone experiences a readjustment period (or reentry or reverse culture shock). Sometimes, coming home can be just as or even more unsettling than going abroad.

Returning to your home culture probably feels much like when you arrived to your host country. You may find that you have changed, and that home might feel "foreign," or no longer feel familiar and natural.

Emotions you might experience when returning from study abroad may include:

Your experience is your own and there is no prescribed way to readjust.

While there are common emotions you may have after returning from abroad, everyone reacts differently to coming home. Realize that these feelings are a normal and on-going part of your cross-cultural experience.

You changed when you were abroad and now you're in an environment where you can see those changes. Cultural readjustment doesn't mean you have to return to your pre-study abroad self; it means you're rebuilding relationships and negotiating this new you with people who remember the old you.

Strategies for Managing Reentry

Take it from the experts – other study abroad returnees: readjustment takes time. If you're stuck in a rut, think about these three Ps – Be Patient, Present, and Proactive.

Be Patient

Readjustment can take days, weeks or even longer. Patience is a study abroad virtue.

Be Present

Starting your home routine may seem boring compared to life overseas, but recognize that everyday moments can be adventures, just as they were abroad!

Be Proactive

Take chances and make a plan. Figure out what you need to do for yourself and do it. Check out IAP's Getting Involved After Study Abroad webpage for some inspiration.

If you're having a hard time adjusting, seek help.

At any time, if you think you might need help dealing with reentry effects (i.e. more intense emotions for a longer period of time), talk to someone. Counseling services are available through UHS.

Signs you may want to consider seeing a professional:

The ups and downs of reentry are to be expected and usually pass in time. Part of your readjustment is taking the time to consider what your study abroad experience means for your future.

Getting Involved

Conveying your study abroad experience to family, friends, and future employers can be a struggle. However, on your end, you can't talk about it if you haven't thought about it. It's important to take time to reflect upon the way you want to convey your study abroad experience. This helps maximize the impact so you can pull out the connections you've made between countries, cultures, and cross-cultural skills. Knowing what made your experience unique will set a foundation for sharing your stories.

After study abroad, apply your new skillset by building on your international experience and developing yourself personally, academically and professionally. UW-Madison offers dozens of international clubs, and returnee events are year-round with IAP. Remember, if you have a wanderlust itch that you just can't scratch, you can also always go abroad again!