International Student Advisory Service

Returning home

Returning to your home country after studying abroad can be overwhelming. It is very normal to find it more complicated and stressful than you imagined.

Preparing to leave

There are some practical tasks to remember when you are preparing to leave after your studies. This checklist includes the most important things to remember.

Reverse culture shock

You may experience ‘reverse culture shock’ and there are two major reasons for this:

  • Changes in your home environment; people, places, events
  • Changes in yourself; socially, emotionally, even physically

Acknowledging ‘reverse culture shock’ is the first step towards adjusting and, with time, the stress and tension will pass.

What can cause reverse culture shock?

Work/Career If you return to a job, you may now find that it seems boring and unchallenging. If you are looking for a new job, there may be a lack of graduate positions you can apply for where your new qualifications will be properly utilised. Your work colleagues may feel both jealous of your experience abroad and a little resentful about your new skills and authority.
Cultural If you return to a job, you may now find that it seems boring and unchallenging. If you are looking for a new job, there may be a lack of graduate positions you can apply for where your new qualifications will be properly utilised. Your work colleagues may feel both jealous of your experience abroad and a little resentful about your new skills and authority.
Social You can be especially vulnerable to social problems on your return. You can often feel out of touch with the latest popular expressions, music, dance and fashions and start feeling and behaving like an outsider. Fortunately, it is possible to adjust quickly. Other social issues to be aware of are that you may find that your old friends have now made new friends and that they have changed whilst you were away. It may also be disappointing to find that interest in your experience abroad might be limited.
Language It may be hard for you if you cannot practice your English at home and you cannot find people with whom you can share your new interests. Furthermore, the people back home may be using new/different words and expressions, in your own language that you do not know about. Examples of this may be new business terms, political expressions and social language.
National/Political National and political changes will have occurred. Prices may have risen. There may have been a change in your country’s leader and changes in certain laws. These changes or others like them can be very distressing. 

Returning behaviour patterns are typically shown in one or more ways:

Alienation You may become very negative about your home culture, considering people at home too materialistic, too friendly, too anything, and may withdraw from society.
Reversion You may deny and ignore any important changes that have occurred in you while you were in Edinburgh and immediately go back to your previous lifestyle.
Integration The best you can do is try and integrate the changes you have experienced in Edinburgh into your home life.  This may not be easy! You will never be the same person again after an experience living abroad.

Solutions and coping strategies

There are several ways you can prepare for, and cope with, reverse culture shock. An open attitude, maintaining connections with other international students, and seeing the positives in integrating your ‘new’ self into your ‘old’ self are a great start. If possible, prepare for your return home before you leave Edinburgh.

Your career If you were in Scotland for a long time, you should do your best to integrate this into your career as a whole. Don’t just see it as a separate event. Use your experience to change your overall approach to working life. 
Awareness of expectations If you are aware of the possibility that ‘reverse culture shock’ may occur, then you will be more likely to cope with it. The more unexpected the change, the more stress it can cause.
Preparing for change Where possible, find out about the changes that have occurred before you return home, so you will know what to expect. Check news sources to update yourself on any changes that have happened while you have been away.
Your health A physical check-up is always wise. If you find you are easily tired, depressed or feel generally unwell, it may be due to the stress of change. Remember that you are probably reacting quite normally. Others have experienced similar circumstances.
Sharing your experience You can learn to value your experience abroad perhaps by meeting with someone who is truly interested in your experience (maybe someone who has been abroad also). Meetings with other people who have been abroad provides a good way of sharing experiences or talking about problems and concerns. You can also practice your English language skills!
Integrating Finally, think about the new options that are available to you at home and list them. Then, plan a lifestyle to fit your current and developing values, attitudes, beliefs, skills and needs. This helps you adapt to long-term change.

Work prospects

If you want to discuss your career plan or work prospects you can access information, advice and guidance through the Careers Service. You can use this service even after graduation.

Careers Service

Stay connected

Staying in touch with other alumni and the University can be useful when you return home after your studies, both socially and for career networking.

Find out how to stay connected