Coming back home after spending time abroad isn't necessarily the end of your intercultural experience.
It does, however, mean that for the time being you're back in the United States and that can require an adjustment. Just as you had to adjust to your host country, the new you—the one you discovered abroad—will have to get to know your family, friends, and home culture all over again. Some people call it "reverse culture shock."
Family & Friends
If you lived with a host family, you may even feel like you had a second family abroad. Your parents and friends may need some time to get used to the new you; they might struggle with the idea that there are other people whom you now consider family.
Organize your pictures, videos, and other memorabilia as soon as possible. This will make it easier for you to share your overseas activities with your family and friends.
However, be sensitive about dominating the conversation with references to people and places they haven't shared. Some people can interpret constant references to these experiences as bragging.
And don't forget to stay in contact with your host family; a couple of quick short notes a year can mean so much and one day, you might get a chance to visit them or they may be able to visit you.
Your semester or year abroad has brought you into contact with higher education in another culture. When you return to your home campus, you may see its physical setting and the way it functions in a new light. Academically, your experience abroad may also have provided insight into new or related career goals. These perspectives may lead you in new directions, and you may want to start taking steps to actualize those new goals.
Talk to your advisor as soon as possible if you want to change your academic or career goals. Next, the Study Abroad Office, Office of International Student Affairs, and the International Illini can put you in contact with international students. Participate in cultural events on campus to add international flavor to life at home.
Many people take their own country and culture for granted until they travel abroad. Differences in customs and values become increasingly apparent and, out of necessity, you adopt some of these ways to get along.
While you may happily accept some of the conveniences you missed while living abroad, you may also take a long hard look at practices you once considered as normal. Your home culture, social conditions, and the mass media may no longer be to your liking.
Remember that your home culture, like the culture that you knew abroad, is a unique culture, rather than a better or worse one.
Perhaps the most profound difference upon your return will be in yourself. Living abroad gave you opportunities to test and refine your decision-making abilities, organizational skills, motivation, and drive, and these experiences have resulted in remarkable personal growth.
You've probably become accustomed to a high level of activity and anticipation, confronting new places, and constantly meeting new people. Some people feel a bit restless or depressed when they return home, so it's important to find new ways to channel that energy.
Give your body and mind some time to adjust. Contemplate how studying abroad has influenced your life goals, especially now that you're home. Finally, get involved with the international community in your area to find activities that enable you to explore different cultures.
* This has been adapted from Syracuse University's There and Back Again: How to Make Re-entry a Little Easier.