Studying abroad: culture shock
How to Cope With Culture Shock After a Trip Abroad
Trips abroad are incredible, often life-changing experiences that show you the world in a whole new light. Returning home after such a powerful journey can be difficult, but there are ways to make it easier. Taking care of your physical and mental health, connecting with your old life in meaningful ways, and keeping the spirit of your trip alive will help make your transition as smooth as possible.
Adjusting to your Old Home
Set a proper sleep schedule to combat jet lag.After a long time abroad, a plane trip to a new time zone can be tricky to deal with. To make it easier, set a consistent time to be in bed each night and stick to it. Adjust it in 15-30 minute increments until you’re synced back up.
- If you have trouble falling asleep, put on some relaxing music, take a hot bath, or sit in a chair and read for a few minutes. Make sure to avoid digital distractions like phones and computers.
Get outside and exercise.Regular exercise helps your body stay healthy when adjusting to a different environment. Doing it outside gives you a chance to adapt to the new climate and re-experience your old home. The more physical presence you have in a place, the easier it will be to become emotionally close to it.
- Good places to run include local trails, parks and, if you’re enrolled in school, the campus itself.
Enjoy the things you missed while you were away.Visit your favorite local store, restaurant, or coffee shop. Take a hot shower, lavish sleeping in your own bed, and eat your favorite foods. Use these as tools to help you appreciate being home.
Give yourself time to relax.From traffic signs, types of food, and social etiquette to the entire speed of life, school, and work, returning home can be an incredibly overwhelming experience. If you feel exhausted or frustrated, give yourself a day or two to relax on your own. Remember that adjusting to a new style of life takes time, so don’t worry if you make mistakes along the way.
- If your schedule doesn’t leave much time for relaxation, take a few minutes in the morning to meditate. Close your eyes and let your mind focus on taking deep, steady breaths.
Talk to a therapist if you’re feeling depressed or distant from others.After such a major experience, returning home can bring with it any number of emotions. A therapist can help you talk through and understand them, providing solutions to any stress or anxiety you may be feeling. Even if you think it’s unnecessary, therapy can unearth thoughts and feelings you didn’t know you held, making it easier to cope and adjust.
- If you studied abroad for school, therapy is often included in your university fees, so make sure to schedule an appointment with your school counselor.
Remembering Your Experience
Decorate your space with trinkets and photos.Photos of your adventure and small, meaningful objects can bring your room to life and make your return more pleasant. Put out items like statues, rugs, table displays, or pieces of art. Get a frame for your favorite photos, or simply tack them to your wall.
Keep wearing your new clothes.Just because you’re home doesn’t mean you have to give up your foreign threads. Though some outfits may not work in different climates or social settings, casual clothes and accessories like scarves, hats, and buttons can help you live the culture a little bit every day.
- If your trip was a life-changing one, consider getting a tattoo to commemorate it. Symbols, foreign script, and meaningful pictures can be a great way to memorialize your journey.
Stay in touch with foreign friends.Thanks to the Internet, leaving a country doesn’t mean leaving your friends behind. Keep in touch on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media apps. For those you’re really close to, stay connected through private chats, texts, or messaging apps like Snapchat.
Moving on with Life
Connect with your family and friends.After an experience abroad, it may feel like the entire world has changed. Your family and close friends can help ground you after returning, their love and kindness showing that the important things in life don’t disappear. Though your relationships may be different, with some friends moving away or changing their social circles, focus on the things that haven’t changed while you’re still adjusting.
- You don’t need to connect with all your friends immediately. Take a few days to relax before seeking people out.
- Avoid parties and welcome home events. Seeing all your friends at once can be nice, but smaller events and one-on-ones will keep you from becoming overwhelmed.
Pick up old hobbies.Life abroad can be busy, especially if you traveled for school or work. Returning home gives you a chance to take your old hobbies off the backburner and enjoy them with new eyes.
- For creative hobbies like painting and writing, use your experiences abroad to try out new styles, methods, and subject matters.
- For games or sports, look for cultural influences you never noticed before, like Japanese references in video games or regional differences in sports equipment.
Join a club or group.It’s easy to become isolated after such a long time away. A great way to combat this is by joining a local club. If you were part of a group before leaving, see when the next meeting is and let them know you’re coming. If you need to find one, search online for groups based around specific interests like board games or books.
- For college students, check your campus website for a list of clubs and when they meet.
- If you miss your time abroad, look for clubs focused on foreign art or culture.
Set a new life goal.Think about what made your time abroad so wonderful. It could be the faster or slower speed of life, the different customs, or the fact that it was something new and exciting. Make a new, concrete goal with this mind, like taking a foreign studies class, writing a book, finding a new job, or saving enough money to travel again. Having something specific to plan for will keep you excited and engaged moving forward.
Video: Why we need to embrace culture shock | Kristofer Gilmour | TEDxTownsville
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