With a look around DU’s campus this winter quarter, one will find it noticeably more populated and full of old familiar faces: the third year students have returned from study abroad. If you are one of these many returnees being welcomed back to Denver and you find yourself stumbling through the process of getting back to “normalcy,” here are a few tips to hopefully smooth the transition and tackle “reverse culture shock.”
Remember to give yourself breaks. Due to varying program lengths and the hectic nature of the holiday season, a lot of returnees had shorter winter breaks. Many students accustomed to the six week vacation between quarters have this year been given only a few days at home, or perhaps no time at all, to rest, recharge and reacclimate. Make time to care for your mental and physical health if you want to have a happier and healthier quarter and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Find yourself a routine. Depending on how different your host country was from the United States, you may find your concept of “daily life” to be altered and unfamiliar. The feeling of independence may be more or less prominent at DU. The best way to slowly adjust to your new (old) life here is to get into a nice routine; going to class, hitting the gym, planning dinners with friends, etc. all help keep your calendar full and your mind and body sufficiently busy.
Make time for friends. Reunions are great, so make an effort to reconnect with old friends in Denver. Go to your favorite restaurants or hit the slopes just like old times. Don’t forget, though, that you’ve all acquired immensely different life experiences in the past few months. Acknowledge that, exchange stories and photos, and talk about any difficulties you’re having in the transition; odds are, you’re not alone. Also keep in touch with new friends you may have made while abroad to keep those relationships and stay connected to your time there.
Come up with an answer for “How was study abroad?” This question has undoubtedly already been posed countless times, and it can be a bit stressful to answer, trying to fit three or four months of ups and downs into one response. You may get tired of repeating the same things over and over again, but having a good broad, generic response like “It was quite the experience!” can come in handy. A good tip is to inquire further, saying “What do you want to know about?” That way, you can have a more specific discussion, too.
Stay involved at DU and your host university. Here at DU, the Office of International Education (OIE) is always looking for Global Ambassadors, volunteers, panel participants, focus groups, presenters and more. There are often ways you can stay connected with your study abroad university, as well, through alumni networks, as a representative and the like. You may even consider going abroad again in the future. Check out the OIE website for articles and resources to help with reacclimation.