While the notion of culture shock may be increasingly familiar, the idea of reverse culture shock is not as well-known. Many people think that, because they are returning back home where everything is familiar, the process of acclimating should be quite easy. They do not expect to face the same type of challenges of adjustment as they may have experienced when abroad. In fact, without such expectations, reverse culture shock can feel even more daunting and overwhelming. (Because of this same lack of expectations, U.S. citizens traveling to countries like the UK and Ireland often experience the effects of culture shock more severely than those traveling to more “unfamiliar” destinations.)
In addition, reverse culture shock often stems from what is called the “Uncle Charlie Syndrome.” While abroad, one often has so many different experiences and accumulates so many stories, not to mention pictures. When he/she returns home, he/she may be excited to share it all with family and friends. While often family and friends are eager to listen and look at first, this eagerness can dissipate before all of the stories are told; or, as the “Uncle Charlie Syndrome” connotes, one’s stories from abroad may be interrupted by friends’ and families’ own stories about Uncle Charlie’s broken leg or Aunt Sue’s incredible Thanksgiving pie. These stories may seem trivial as compared to one’s adventure hiking the Himalayas or eating some extravagant dish in South America, and one can begin to feel silenced. As a result, the Uncle Charlie Syndrome can cause not only frustration, but a sense of distance towards those to whom one has always felt close.
- Anticipate that you may confront challenges when coming home.
- Remind yourself that while you were abroad, life was still going on at home and that everyone’s experiences are equally valuable, even if they seem trivial to you.
- Look for other outlets to share your stories.
- Submit stories, photos, and memories of your experience to the Office of International Services–we would love to hear them, and to share them with other students on our “Horizons” blog.
- Consider participating in class presentations designed to inform UALR students about study abroad opportunities–many students will be eager to hear about your first-hand experience, and you may provide the ‘nudge’ they need to start their own experience abroad. Let the Programs Abroad staff know if you are willing to contribute to any of our presentations on campus.
- Stay in touch with the Programs Abroad Office! We are working diligently to create more opportunities for returned students to integrate their experiences abroad with their life back home and we welcome your ideas.
- By labeling your pictures and writing down your stories and memories in a journal, you will have a forum in which to look back on your experience for years to come.