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Most Memorable Experience

I volunteered at a nursing home in Aix, and meeting my 98-year-old friend Ferdinand was easily one of the best things I did.

Allison Mack

French and English, with a certificate in European Studies
IAP Aix-en-Provence, France



Supporting Your Student Upon Return

Welcoming your student back as they return from an experience abroad should make you very proud as a parent or family member. Yet, whether you notice it or not, your student may be going through some changes known as readjustment (reentry or reverse culture shock). This readjustment may show itself through excitement and difficulties in resuming relationships, and adjusting back to UW-Madison both academically and socially.

Students often go through a phase of "reverse" or "re-entry" culture shock when they return from studying abroad. Sometimes this phase can be more challenging than what was initially experienced abroad. Students expect to go through adjustments in foreign countries, but do not always realize that life has continued on without them at home and there may be changes for which they were not prepared. For your student, returning to their home culture probably feels much like when they arrived to their host country. Home might feel foreign, or no longer feel familiar and natural. The stages of culture shock experienced abroad can repeat coming home, in reverse culture shock.

The best way to help your student with readjustment is showing genuine interest through listening to your students stories and concerns while encouraging them to not segment their life abroad. Faced with questions such as "How was your time in xxxx?" a student often can only answer "Great!" before conversation moves on to another subject. Encourage friends and family members to ask more specific questions like "What were the best things about living abroad? The most difficult? What places did you visit? Are people's daily lives the same as in the United States? Do you have any pictures? etc." Have a party where your student can show off food, customs and souvenirs from his or her travels. Not only will such questions and activities remind students they had a worthwhile experience and help them to readjust, it will help others in your community or family learn more about the world around us.

Reading through our section for returned students may help you understand what your student may be experiencing.

Each Student Readjusts Differently

The following questions may help you understand the mix of emotions your student is experiencing, but know that everyone's experiences and adjustments may be different.

More information and professional resources for parents and family members