How to deal with reverse culture shock after your Chevening year

After returning home from your Chevening year, you might experience something known as 'reverse culture shock'. We've asked our seasoned alumni for advice for any new Chevening Alumni entering this new stage of their journey.

It’s a strange thing to consider: not feeling comfortable in your home country — the place where you grew up and where you’ll find your closest friends and family members.

But struggling to acclimatise to life at home after spending time abroad is a common phenomenon. So common, in fact, that it has a name: ‘Reverse culture shock’.

What is reverse culture shock?

Reverse culture shock is characterised by a number of things, and they often differ between people. For example, returning home may leave you feeling restless with an urge to just do something, but you could also find you’re lacking motivation and struggling to get things done.

Despite hearing of reverse culture shock before she left home, alumna Sharon Zaaruka, who left her home in Namibia to spend her Chevening year studying digital marketing at Cardiff Metropolitan University, found it hard to believe it could be possible.

‘I just thought it was something that people who have been abroad or to other countries talk about just to show that they have been outside the country. I was advised to stay in touch with family and friends, stay up to date with current affairs and I did that. However, nothing prepared me for feeling the way I did when I returned to my country.’

How to deal with reverse culture shock?

So, if returning from your Chevening year has left you with mixed emotions—or your time in the UK is coming to an end and you’re worried about readjusting—what can you do about it?

For alumna Evone Walters, dealing with reverse culture shock starts before you even set foot on the plane home. She returned to Jamaica in 2021 after studying an MA in Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship at Goldsmiths, University of London.

‘Before you leave the UK, start to remind yourself of the things you love about your country. Remind yourself about what your country does great. To help ground yourself in your home country, write a list of 10 things you love to do there.’

Of course, there will also be things that you love about life in the UK. Once the plane lands and you’re attempting to settle back into life at home, incorporating some of these things into your day-to-day can help with the adjustment.

If you spent weeknights watching British game shows, went out for a roast on Sundays, or just developed an affinity with a good ol’ English cuppa, try to bring part of that home with you.

Another way to deal with reverse culture shock is by trying out new things in your own country. Part of the difficulty in embedding yourself back home is losing the excitement and sense of adventure that comes with living in a new environment. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find fresh, fun things to do now that you’re back home.

For alumnus Daniel Liendo, channelling some of the excitement he felt during his year at City University of London was essential when returning to his home in Venezuela.

‘Something that has helped me to reconnect with my homeland is living in it as if I were a tourist in my own city, and country. I’ve been to museums I’ve never been to, eaten in places I’ve never eaten, talked to more people on the street, and walked more than ever before. This has connected me to the city in a way I never thought possible, and I thank myself every day for coming back.’

When dealing with reverse culture shock, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone.

There are many people who deal with this issue every year after completing their master’s degree, and sharing your experience can help with the burden.

Local Chevening Alumni groups offer an opportunity to connect with people close by who may be going through the same difficulties in readjusting. You can also get in touch with alumni in other countries who may be dealing with the same feelings via the Chevening Alumni Network group on LinkedIn.

And don’t forget the people you met while living in the UK. A big part of the challenge when returning home is saying goodbye to your friends. But just because you’re in a different country doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with them and keep up the relationship you developed while studying. Who knows when you might get a chance to return and catch up, right?

There are several ways you can try to make adjusting to life at home easier after your Chevening year. Whatever you decide to do, just remember that adjusting to a big life change isn’t easy, and it may take some time.

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