Overseas students are granted the grading options and are subject to all grading policies as on-campus students. Unless a student makes a written request for an optional grading policy (i.e. S/U grading, course audit) and receives instructor approval for same, they will be registered for their courses on a standard letter-grade basis.

Students who are receiving transfer credit for any of their course work may experience a notable delay in the appearance of and receipt of these courses and credits on their Norwich record.  Please note that many overseas institutes do not issue the International Center documentation of this course work until after the close of Norwich deadlines, resulting in this delay.  Students who are studying overseas during their final semester prior to graduation should contact the International Center or the host institution to see whether official transcripts could be expedited.  The university cannot give credit without a transcript from the foreign institution.

Reverse Culture Shock

As difficult as it is to adapt to an entirely new culture, it can be even more challenging to come back home after being away for any period of time.  It is best to know what you might encounter in order to prepare for this adjustment period.

Expect to experience some measure of reverse culture shock. Reverse or re-entry shock can be defined as the unexpected confrontation with the familiar (R. Michael Paige).

Just as culture shock can differ greatly from person to person, reverse culture shock is just as personal of an experience. Upon return to the United States, you may find many things are different from how you left them. You may be more critical of the United States, while you now view the country of your choice in a more favorable light. From language adjustments to depression to a simple trip to the supermarket, reverse culture shock can hit you in more ways than you would expect.

Defining Reverse Culture Shock

An idealized view of home: The expectation of total familiarity (that nothing at home has changed while you have been away in the country of your choice) Often students expect to be able to pick up exactly where they left off. A problem arises when reality doesn’t meet these expectations. Home may fall short of what you had envisioned, and things may have changed at home: your friends and family have their own lives, and things have happened since you’ve been gone. This is part of why home may feel so foreign.

Feelings You May Experience

The inconsistency between expectations and reality, plus the lack of interest on the part of family and friends (nobody seems to really care about all of your “when I was abroad in the country of your choice” stories) may result in: frustration, feelings of alienation, and mutual misunderstandings between study abroad students and their friends and family. Of course, the difficulty of readjustment will vary for different individuals, but, in general, the better integrated you have become to the a citizen of the country of your choice culture and lifestyle, the harder it is to readjust during re–entry. This is where reverse culture shock (sometimes called re–entry shock) comes in to play.

4 Stages of Reverse Culture Shock

  • Disengagement begins before you leave the country of your choice. You begin thinking about re–entry and making your preparations for your return home. You also begin to realize that it’s time to say good–bye to your friends in the country of your choice and to the place you’ve come to call home. The hustle and bustle of finals, good–bye parties, and packing can intensify your feelings of sadness and frustration. You already miss the friends you’ve made, and you are reluctant to leave. Or, you may make your last few days fly by so fast that you don’t have time to reflect on your emotions and experiences.
  • Initial euphoria usually begins shortly before departure, and it is characterized by feelings of excitement and anticipation – even euphoria – about returning home. This is very similar to the initial feelings of fascination and excitement you may have when you first entered the country of your choice. You may be very happy to see your family and friends again, and they are also happy to see you. The length of this stage varies, and often ends with the realization that most people are not as interested in your experiences in the country of your choice as you had hoped. They will politely listen to your stories for a while, but you may find that soon they are ready to move on to the next topic of conversation.
  • This is often one of the transitions to irritability and hostility. You may experience feelings of frustration, anger, alienation, loneliness, disorientation, and helplessness and not understand exactly why. You might quickly become irritated or critical of others and of U.S. culture. Depression, feeling like a stranger at home, and the longing to go back abroad are also not uncommon reactions. You may also feel less independent than you were in the country of your choice.
  • Most people are then able to move onto readjustment and adaptation, which is a gradual readjustment to life at home. Things will start to seem a little more normal again, and you will probably fall back into some old routines, but things won’t be exactly the same as how you left them. You have most likely developed new attitudes, beliefs, habits, as well as personal and professional goals, and you will see things differently now. The important thing is to try to incorporate the positive aspects of your international experience in the country of your choice with the positive aspects of your life at home in the United States.

Combatting Reverse Culture Shock

  • Attend the Returnee Conference – The International Center hosts a Returnee Conference to provide resources to student returning form abroad. You will learn how to highlight and articulate your experience on a resume or in a cover letter or interview. You will hear about opportunities for further travel. You will have a chance to share your experience with other students who have also returned from abroad.
  • Keep in touch with new friends that you met abroad – If you met other Americans or international students, they will be going through re-entry at the same time, and you can discuss it together. If you made friends in the host country, keep those friendships alive. You never know when you will be back in the area and need a couch to crash on!
  • Talk with other returnee students – Other Norwich students will have been abroad when you were. Talk about your experiences together.
  • Join an internationally focused organization – Join a club or organization with an international focus such as the International Student Organization. If you focused on a language while abroad, join or create a club for that language to keep your skills fresh.
  • Write – Keep a journal or blog to record you re-entry experiences. Consider writing an article for the Guidon or International Center website so that you cna share your experience and others can learn from you.
  • Consider going abroad again – You could work, intern, reasearch, or volunteer abroad. Many students consider applying for programs such as Fulbright or the Peace Corps in order to have another serious international experience.
  • Volunteer with the International Center – The International Center relies on returnee volunteers to get other students excited about the prospect of studying abroad. Consider speaking on a panel or coming to an International Center-sponsored event to help encourages your peers to have an amazing experience like you just had.
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