What is re-entry shock and how do I deal with it?

When travelling abroad many people are aware of the potential for culture-shock, but a newer concept to many is re-entry shock. After arriving into a new cultural environment with all sorts of new smells, tastes, sounds, and experiences, it can be disorienting as your day to day life takes on a totally new tone. But what about when you come back home? It may be equally as disorienting to return home after spending an extended period abroad. Keep reading to find out some ways for you to best handle re-entry shock.


Written by Caroline Hissong


  1. Know it is going to happen!

Many interns will go abroad prepared with videos, brochures, and countless sources of information on how to enter a new environment and are able to mentally prepare themselves for that initial cultural shock. What they do not expect however, is to come home and suddenly find themselves hyper-aware of how their culture at home is so different. Maybe the pace of life is slower, or their communication habits are different. Sometimes even coming back into an environment where you speak the language fluently can seem overwhelming as you no longer are able to tune out background conversation. There are many ways in which re-entry shock might manifest itself for each student, and the key to combating this is understanding how to handle re-entry shock and communicating this with others.


intern-in-asia-re-entry shock

Intern with thestunning views of Asia


  1. Practice the language.

Because you are a bright individual who has made the choice to intern abroad, you already understand the various benefits both personally and professionally to studying a non-primary language, but it can also help you keep connected with the country you just left. There are various apps such as Duolingo, Memrise, Rosetta Stone and more that will help you keep up what you have learned so far. There may even be local tutoring options available near you, keep an eye out! There are just as many free options as there are paid, so explore what is out there!


  1. Keep in touch with fellow interns and coworkers.

There is no other group of people that will understand your experience better than those who also took the trip abroad. Through your cohort you can discuss your favorite times, things you miss, things you don’t miss, and more. As well, they can also become study partners for practicing that language. Our alumni network will also help you stay connected to other globally-minded professionals with similar values and goals to you.


  1. Get involved in local cultural clubs.

Many school campuses and local municipalities will have clubs or organizations dedicated to sharing and appreciating various cultures or countries. These clubs can be a way to stay connected with those tied to the culture and country and may even give you the chance to get involved in outreach or volunteer charity work. There are many international organizations that need people like you who have become passionate about our global world. Keep learning and helping when you can and you’ll find you haven’t left those experiences too far behind.


  1. Watch it on TV

We live in the age of the internet, and it has never been easier to watch international television and film. Korean and Japanese shows are strongly represented on Netflix with some Chinese films here and there. Streaming BBC is a great option for those that headed to Manchester. Hulu’s international section is also expanding. Chances are, if there is something you want to watch, you can find it online. Television can be an entertaining way to keep up with language, as well as cultural nuances that you may have picked up on while abroad.



tasting delicious asian food


  1. Learn some recipes.

While you were abroad you probably had some amazing food. Luckily for you, those delicious meals may not be your last chance to indulge! Look up the names and recipes for the dishes or desserts you liked the most and see if you can replicate them with family and friends. If you’re not confident in your abilities as a chef, there are probably some good restaurants nearby that can provide a similar dish! Totally changing the way you eat can be a shock to your system, changing back will likely do the same. These meals can be a fantastic gateway into sharing your experience with your everyone back home. (Quick tip, many groceries now carry international drinks and snacks. Check out their international section for a small treat!)


  1. Reflect on your time abroad.

Now that you are back home you have the chance to look back on your experience as a whole. There were professional skills you gained in the workplace, cultural knowledge that helped you adapt to an entirely new setting, or confidence that you formed working on completed projects. Look back on our 5-Key Learning Objectives and write this down! Your time abroad was incredibly valuable, but it gains even more usefulness to you if you are able to share it with others. Employers will ask you about what you did while on your international internship because it is an interesting talking point and an experience unique to you.



Writing during an internship in Asia


  1. Be patient with yourself.

So, you are back home, bored and wishing you could go back to the awesome time you had at one of our 9 locations. Remember to be patient during the adjustment period of handling re-entry shock while you acclimate to being home, and try to stay positive! Be thankful you had a great experience and look forward to the doors opening in front of you that will allow you to continue to be an asset in the global workplace.


  1. You can always go back!

Just because you have gone once does not mean you will never go back! If you really enjoyed your time at work you could consider applying abroad. Maybe in a few years time when you are looking for a vacation spot you should consider going again. If the travel bug has bit you and you really enjoyed working in Beijing but want a more relaxed workspace, try Ho Chi Minh City. If you went to Manchester and found the football rivalry exciting, try being a part of the voracious new E-sport scene in Seoul. There are so many places around the world that offer their own special charm, and you have your life ahead of you to explore them!

Don’t let re-entry shock surprise you. After months abroad working hard at an internship, you will adapt and become invested in totally new experiences. When you come back home it becomes your new task to translate those moments into opportunities! You had a great time abroad, you learned a lot, had fun, and have better prepared yourself for your career.


If you have not gone abroad yet and are considering it, check out our available career fields and locations to give you an idea of what you could accomplish abroad.

Interested? Apply now!