Welcome Back, Study Abroad Returnees!

Adjusting To Life At “Home”

"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered."  -Nelson Mandela

Few people anticipate experiencing culture shock upon returning home, but many students actually find that it is just as challenging to get used to being at home again as it was to get used to living abroad. 

Some students find that they have changed and grown a great deal while abroad, but that home, family and friends have not, and this gap makes it challenging to slip back into old places and old relationships. 

You may find that your old “world” just doesn’t look the same through new eyes.   You should expect a certain amount of this if you have had a full and enriching experience overseas.

Things you may experience during this period of “reverse culture shock”:

  • Impression that you can’t fully explain your experience or its importance
  • Realization that others do not want to hear very much about your adventures
  • Sensation of being “out of place” despite being home
  • Boredom with being home
  • Experiencing “reverse homesickness” for the place where you studied abroad
  • Seeing that relationships with family and friends have changed
  • Feeling that others misunderstand your growth, or see the “wrong” changes in you
  • Assessing your home in a way that is judgmental or overly critical
  • Feeling that your experience abroad is lost or cut off from the rest of your life

If you find yourself experiencing difficulty after coming home:

  • Try to use the same cultural adaptation skills that you developed while you were getting used to being abroad to make the transition to being home
  • Just as you did while abroad, show respect and patience in dealing with the temporarily-unfamiliar culture of “home”
  • Seek the company of people who understand you, who may not be the same people who understood you before your life-enriching travel experiences
  • Maintain connections with “the international life” through the many opportunities available at Purdue (see below)

Seek help from Counseling and Psychological Services if you feel that your readjustment is not going well, or if the rough period lasts longer than a couple of months.

Further Reading

Top Ten Immediate Reentry Challenges (IES)

After Going Abroad:  A Re-Entry Handbook for Returning Students (UCSC)

What's Up With Culture? - Module 2: Welcome Back! Now What? (Bruce La Brack)

Reentry Information (Gilman Scholarship Program)

How to fight the post-abroad blues (USA Today)

International Living at Purdue

Returning to West Lafayette doesn’t mean saying goodbye to a lifestyle with global connections.  Many returned students find it important to build a social circle of people who have had international experiences similar to their own.  There are also a variety of opportunities on and around campus to contribute your skills and continue your intercultural development.  Here are some suggestions for staying connected to the wider world:

Make New Friends

PASSPORT is the “Purdue Association of Student Study Abroad Participants and Other Recent Travelers."  This group of returned study abroad participants and visiting international students is primarily a social club. 

Purdue is home to many International Student Organizations, and the One Community Grant is available to groups that develop programs providing meaningful interactions between international and domestic students. 

Be a Volunteer

Study Abroad Ambassadors are returned study abroad participants who do classroom talks, meet with new program participants, hang posters, and staff information tables (among other tasks) to promote study abroad across the Purdue campus.

Remember how much it meant to have friendship and help from local people when YOU were abroad?  The International Friendship Program pairs local volunteer hosts with new international students and scholars, providing the opportunity to learn about American culture, build lasting friendships, and have community support while at Purdue.

If you studied in Germany and would like to encourage others to do the same, apply to become a DAAD Ambassador for the German Academic Exchange Service.

The West Lafayette Global Fest celebration (Labor Day weekend) always needs volunteers.

Volunteer to talk about your experience to clubs and groups, on campus and off, including adults and children.  Teachers and civic organizations are always looking for interesting speakers! 

Explore More

The School of Languages & Cultures has regular tea & coffee hours for speakers of other languages and hosts cultural events such as screenings of foreign films.

Purdue's Center for Intercultural Learning, Mentorship, Assessment, and Research (CILMAR) offers intercultural learning programs and information.

The International Center of West Lafayette, a nonprofit community organization unaffiliated with Purdue, offers numerous cross-cultural programs organized by international and US residents from the community. 

Now that you are used to eating formerly “unusual” things (sushi…brie…haggis…vegemite…), try some of the Lafayette area restaurants that you always used to pass by.  Click here for a list of restaurants within easy reach.

Get Creative

The Study Abroad Office welcomes returnees to submit favorite photos from their time abroad to studyabroad@purdue.edu.  We may feature these on our website, promotional materials, or social media accounts.

Travel writing from study abroad participants is accepted and published by study abroad oriented magazines like Transitions Abroad.

Additionally, the Purdue Exponent sometimes accepts essays and reporting about study abroad experiences during the semester.  The paper also prints a special "Literary Edition" near the end of each semester which may be more likely to accept more reflective pieces, fiction, or poetry.

Keep in Touch

Stay connected with Purdue Study Abroad.  Follow us on social media or visit our website to stay up to date on any workshops or events we may be offering.  If you worked with a Study Abroad Advisor prior to departure, reach out to them for a debrief of your experience once you've returned.

Going Abroad Again

Many returned students tell us they would like to go abroad again to study, volunteer, or work. 

If you are interested in participating in another study abroad program through Purdue, visit the Program Search page or contact the Study Abroad Office to learn more about available opportunities.

If you are thinking about graduate school, be sure to ask if the program that you are considering offers the possibility to spend time abroad doing research, taking classes or teaching.  Many graduate programs do not offer study abroad opportunities.  Click here to read about international education opportunities that are open to graduate students at Purdue and other institutions.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program supports more than 1,200 US citizens in all fields of study annually for a year of study, research, teaching experience or professional training in the arts in more than 140 different countries.  The program is meant for recent BA/BS graduates, masters and doctoral candidates, young professionals, and artists.

If you would like to work, teach, volunteer, or intern abroad, Purdue offers information on these options, some available to current students and others to post-graduates.  Check out this page for details.

Reaping the Career Benefits of Study Abroad

Study abroad allows students to develop and demonstrate many of the skills most sought after by employers.  Be sure to check out the following resources designed to help you effectively articulate the value of your study abroad experience in resumes, cover letters, and interviews.

Webinar Recording:  Marketing Your Study Abroad Experience (09-06-2023)

You can view our most recent recorded webinar on this topic in the video player above or at this link

For information on upcoming webinars and other events, please visit our calendar