Time to come home – how can it be this hard?

This is definitely a time for mixed feelings, so be prepared. You are happy to return home but also sad that your exchange has ended. How is it possible to feel so happy and so deeply sad at the same time?

Adapting back to your home country can be similar to what you experienced at the start of your program, and we call this reverse culture shock. It can be surprising to many students who did not expect to feel out of place in their own homes when they returned. Returnees tell us they felt like they didn’t fit in anymore and experienced restlessness, boredom, and disconnection until they readjusted.

Recognise that going on exchange has changed your perspective. Your life now and all your decisions will be made through the lens of your exchange experience. You are not the same person you were when you left, and you should be prepared for the possibility that your friends and family may not be quite prepared for the change in you.

Readjusting to home – tips from returnees:

  • Understand that readjusting takes time: Be patient with yourself as you adapt to being back home.
  • Create a Photo Album or Blog: Compile your photos and stories. This can be a great way to share your memories with others.
  • When sharing your experiences, it’s important to understand that not everyone will be interested and want to hear your stories all the time.
  • Stay Connected with Your Host Country: Keep in touch with your host family and the friends you made.
  • Seek Support: If you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to seek support. 
  • Continue Language Practice: If you learned a new language, find ways to keep practising and using it. 
  • Maintain New Habits: If you picked up new habits or hobbies while on exchange, keep them up!
  • Journaling and Reflection: Reflect on your experiences and growth. Journaling can be a therapeutic way to process your journey.
  • Recognise that you are not the only one who will have experienced new things while you were away. Your family and friends may have changed too. Perhaps the daily routine at home has changed, and School might feel a little different now that you are in a more senior grade.

Returning home from an exchange program is not just returning to your old life. It’s a chance to apply newfound knowledge and ideas in familiar settings. It is an opportunity to see your old life with a fresh perspective. So embrace the changes and allow yourself to enjoy the comfort of your own home, catch up with your friends and indulge in all the food that you missed. (Tim Tam’s anyone?) 

Coming home allows you to integrate the best of both the countries you’ve come to love, enriching your life and the lives of those around you in ways only going on exchange can, and it opens an opportunity to join us as a YFU Student Mentor. The Student Mentor Program offers you a unique opportunity to connect with other returnees and offer support to students who are preparing to depart for exchange. 

Remember, the end of your exchange program is not the end; it’s just the beginning…

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