Heading back after an exchange semester can be ever more difficult than leaving home.

There’s a shock in both ends of an exchange semester. And the one you encounter back home might be even harder than the initial one.
”For many the exchange might have been one of the highlights of their student days and it feels difficult to return”, explains Solja Ryhänen, International Coordinator at the University of Jyväskylä.
There are however, a few things one might find helpful when coping with a reverse culture shock.

Get used to the idea of going home. ”Mental preparation is as important as the paperwork”, Ryhänen says. The further away you are from home and the longer you have been there, the more time you need.

Mind the papers. ”Most of the questions we get concern paperwork”, tells Ryhänen. Make sure you have transcripts of your studies. Check what other papers your home university might also expect.

Pay your dues. Don’t forget to return your books to the library and cancel your lease. ”Many exchange students also have other borrowed things like survival kits”, Ryhänen notes.

Don’t expect too much. ”For example many Finnish exchange students have an idea of Finland, where everything works easily. And then, when something goes wrong, they get disappointed”, Ryhänen exemplifies.

Listen to others’ stories too. It’s not only you, who’s life might have changed. You might feel like talking about your exchange all the time, but others might not be interested.

Give yourself time. ”After an exchange you might feel you’re in a similar in-between state as before going”, Ryhänen says.
”It is important to reflect your experiences and incorporate them to your life in a productive way.”

Keep in touch. Even though you and your new friends might be heading to different countries, it’s possible they are going through the same things. Sharing your experiences helps to ease the counter culture shock  and makes sure you’ll keep in touch.

Marja Honkonen