Returning Home from a Volunteer Trip Abroad

When you return home from your trip, the “reverse culture shock” can be just as significant as the culture shock you experienced when first arriving in the host country.

Returning home is often not a predictable process and can be more stressful than you anticipate.

You might find yourself different than you were before you left home.

You might feel like a “stranger” even among friends and family.

You might get frustrated because it is difficult for others to know what your experiences have meant to you and how you might have changed.

You may need significant time to return to your old roles and relationships.

Be aware that things at home may have changed while you were away, both in the society and among friends and family. Even if you have heard about these events, the impact at home may not have been obvious.

Your friends and family might notice that you have different patterns of behavior, speech, or new attitudes.

Strange as it may seem to others, returnees often grieve for what they have left behind. You might be missing overseas friends, a stimulating environment, the feeling of being special, experiencing greater freedoms or responsibilities, or special privileges.

Strategies for coping with returning home

> Make contact with other volunteers who have successfully gone through the experience of returning home from abroad. This can help you through a difficult period of re-adaptation.

> Maintain personal and professional contacts with friends and institutions in the host country.

> Write and reflect about your experiences in a journal. This can be private or can be shared with friends, family, or the world (via a blog).

> Tell others your stories, show them your photos and videos.

> Jet Lag: Don’t forget that the you will face jet lag when returning home, if you are crossing time zones.

> For your physical health: If you become ill with a fever or flu-like illness up to one year after returning from abroad, seek immediate medical care and tell them about your destinations abroad. (Fever could indicate malaria)