Upon return to the United States after studying abroad in Spain, you may experience what is known as “Re-entry shock”, or the process of adjustment to life after study abroad and its accompanying range of emotions. Studies have shown that the better adapted students were to the host country, the more difficult the adjustment process upon return home. This is because values, attitudes, ideas, habits, views of self and of the U.S. have changed, and must be accommodated upon return home. In other words, you may not be the same person as when you left the States, and you are not aware just how much you have changed until you return home. Just as there exist stages for Culture Shock, there also exist stages for Reverse or Re-entry Shock, known as the Boomerang Effect. Students may experience the following stages to varying degrees and not necessarily in this order:
- Stage 1: Disengagement. This stage begins before you leave Spain, as you begin making preparations for your return home. The emotions you may feel are reluctance to leave Spain, missing of friends, or you may not have had time to reflect upon your experiences and emotions because the last few days were very hectic.
- Stage 2: Initial euphoria. This stage usually begins shortly before departure and is characterized by feelings of excitement and anticipation about returning home. The length of this stage varies, and later you may realize most people are not as interested in your experiences abroad as you had hoped.
- Stage 3: Irritability and hostility. You may experience feelings of frustration, anger, loneliness, helplessness, and/or alienation and not know why. You may become critical of the U.S., feel like a stranger at home, or experience a longing to return abroad.
- Stage 4: Readjustment and adaptation. The majority of people transition to this stage, which is a gradual readjustment to life at home. You begin to fall back into your old routines. The most important thing is to try to incorporate the positive aspects of your international experience to life now in the States.
Integrating and Applying your Study Abroad Experience
Here are some ways in which you can integrate your experience abroad at home:
- Get involved on campus. Take language classes, volunteer to lead conversation classes, mentor international students, add a major or minor, get involved in your university education abroad office.
- Make plans to return abroad through another study abroad program or independent travel.
- Volunteer, intern, teach, or work abroad.
- Read news from online foreign sources and attend foreign cultural events and celebrations. This is not an extensive list. There are many other ways to incorporate your experience abroad. Be creative!