Reverse culture shock, returning to the U.S. after study abroad

One year flew by here in Argentina, and in three months I will journey back home to Mendota Heights, MN. I feel bittersweet about returning home and leaving Argentina. This country will always have a special place in my heart. I grew a lot as a person, begun the process of finding who I am and where my place is in this world and learned valuable lessons about life.

Just thinking about returning home makes me tear up, because I will finally be able to hug my mom after a full year of being apart, but I will also leave behind new parents, friends, and siblings. I do not know when I will see them again, which is difficult to think about, but I know that this will be one of many trips I take to this beautiful country.

Argentina has been my home for an entire year and it will not be easy to say goodbye to everything now familiar to me – the culture, the language, the food, the architecture and my host family. I know that once I am home, I will dearly miss all that Argentina gave me.

On July 21, when I return home, a new chapter begins. Finally, I can eat a Chipotle burrito, and drive instead of taking a bus or subway everywhere. I will be reunited with my little bichon frise who hopefully still remembers me. At last, I will understand everyone 100 percent when they speak to me in my native language.

At this point, I am afraid of reverse culture shock. According to Marquette University, “reverse culture shock is an emotional and psychological stage of re-adjustment, similar to one’s initial adjustment to living abroad. Symptoms can range from feeling like no one understands you or how you’ve changed to feeling panicked that you will lose part of your identity if you don’t have an outlet to pursue new interests that were sparked abroad.”

Symptoms can include boredom, restlessness, depression, uncertainty, rootlessness, confusion, wanting to be alone and even reverse homesickness. This list of potential symptoms definitely scares me, and I am not looking forward to going through this. My biggest fear is that my family will not understand what I am going through and will not know how to help me.

I loved living in Buenos Aires, but no one from back home will understand or know what I went through here- how much I learned, discovered, was challenged, did and struggled with. I know that when I feel any of the symptoms above, the best way to combat them will be to talk to someone, let them know what I am feeling and allow them to help me as best as they can.

Although I am leaving Argentina, it does not mean that Argentina has to leave me. I hope to bring back a better understanding of Argentina to those who know little about it. I want to share all of my experiences, both good and bad, with the people I love so that they can get a tiny glimpse of my year abroad. Although I am afraid of reverse culture shock, I know that I will have a group of people behind me supporting me through it, and that I can overcome it.

One thought on “Reverse culture shock, returning to the U.S. after study abroad

  1. Elizabeth,
    After reading your article (very well written) I couldn’t help but think how this relates to veterans entering the military, and returning after four years, which I experienced I too felt fear in entering but quickly lost the fear which was replaced by camaraderie with others in the same boat. I too felt fear when it was time to return, would I fit in I wondered, I remember going through times of sadness and wanting to be alone, but again soon with time we move on to our next chapter in life and new blooms come with Spring. You will always have Argentina. How exciting your life has been so far. I’m sure Moms ready for that hug, God Bless your Life.