Returning to Campus

Academic Credit Transfer

After completing a study abroad program for transfer credit, a transcript will be delivered to the Office of Admissions approximately 6-8 weeks following the completion of the study abroad program. Students are advised to work with their academic advisor to apply international coursework to the appropriate section(s) of their degree audit.

Get Involved

  • Employment: The LAS Study Abroad Office offers Student Ambassador positions where you can consult interested students and develop recruitment materials for programs. Inquire about ambassador positions at lasstudyabroad@iastate.edu.
  • Clubs: Some clubs on campus have an international focus where students may have similar interests as you. ISU clubs that we know about include WLC language clubs, ISSO English Conversation partners, OXFAM, International Student Council, Engineers without Borders (they always look for anthropologists and linguists), and many more!
  • Blogging: If you’re really just looking to talk about your experience, the LAS Study Abroad Office would love for you to share your stories and photos that we would post on our website or social media. Some travel websites also look for freelance bloggers to talk about their experience abroad. Send us your photos and stories to lasstudyabroad@iastate.edu.
  • WLC 491: a 1-credit Pass/Fail course open to all ISU students who have returned from study/internship abroad. Students will learn how to highlight their study abroad experience for job searching as well as connect with other students who have returned from abroad. This is a Spring course only.

Reverse Culture Shock

You just had the greatest experience in college filled with the wildest stories. You ate things you never heard of, you navigated languages with only “please” and “thank you”, and you probably discovered more about yourself as a person than you ever have before. Now, you get to come home to the family and friends you missed so dearly. But if you were so excited to come home, why does it now feel so overwhelming and empty?

What you’re experiencing is Reverse Culture Shock, and you’re not alone. Similar to typical culture shock, reverse culture shock is when you return home and find that it doesn’t feel quite like home anymore. It happens to many students who study abroad, whether they were abroad for a few weeks or a year. From feeling like something is missing to being overwhelmed, we have heard it all and wanted to help you navigate these feelings and compiled some resources to assist your journey in adjusting to home life again.

The W-Model

Gullahorn and Gullahorn (1963) developed the W-Model, a common depiction of the progression of culture shock into reverse culture shock. As noted by the size of the hills, reverse culture shock can feel just as disjointing as the original culture shock you may have experienced while abroad. This can be because you were not expecting to feel any negative feelings when returning home.

Common Feelings

  • Restlessness
  • Rootlessness
  • Boredom
  • Depression
  • Uncertainty
  • Confusion
  • Isolation
  • Wanting to be alone
  • “Reverse homesickness”

More information about what culture shock feels like can be found on the U.S. Department of State’s Website.

What can help you feel better?

Accept Your New Self

There’s a good chance that you do not feel like the same person you were when you left. It can be jarring to see how your new self adapts to your old life. It can be helpful to journal about it or reflect on your thoughts to process what happened you and be proud of what you accomplished abroad.

Some exercises by Brubaker (2016) that can help are first exploring what you really dislike about being home for five minutes, and then reflect whether you wrote more or less than you anticipated, how it feels to acknowledge your negative thoughts, and what did you learn from this activity.

You can than transition to more positive thoughts about being home. You can answer questions about what you liked about being abroad and what you like about being home. Identify if there are any patterns between what you like, and see how you can integrate what you liked about being abroad into your current life.

Brubaker (2016) also suggests developing your “Global Life Ingredients”. These are the things you must have in your life to make it feel global. These do not need to be about actually travelling. Many people find satisfaction in cooking different foods every other week, surrounding themselves with good friends on the weekends, or engaging in language exchange with international students. Make sure you explain why such an activity is important to you, and keep asking why! The deeper the answers, the better you can process.

Reconnect with Study Abroad Friends

No one knows more about your journey abroad than those who took that leap with you. It can be less isolating to shoot a peer a quick text about the nostalgic pain, as they might be feeling the same way.

Make Local Adventures

Maybe you travelled every weekend to new sites or tried a new food every other day. Romanticizing your time abroad is very tempting with all the adventures you went on, and home can feel less exciting in comparison. Planning smaller travels to places in Iowa or the Midwest makes your United States experience seem more exciting and fosters a greater appreciation for all the places you consider home.

Counseling 

If the blues you feel are unshakeable, seeking professional therapeutic intervention may be helpful. ISU Counseling offers free resources for ISU students and can help you develop strategies to cope with these feelings.

Brubaker, Cate. (2016). The Re-Entry Relaunch Roadmap. Thinking Travel Press.

Gullahorn, J. T. and Gullahorn, J. E. (1963). An Extension of the U-Hypothesis. Social Issues, 19(3), 33-47.

[W-Curve Model] [Image]. VACorps. https://www.vacorps.com/knowledge-base/culture-shock.