Adjusting to normalcy

Studying Abroad (Heather Davidson)
(Photo by Heather Davidson)

Coming home from another country can be difficult. But what if you were away for fourteen weeks? This is the case for students who partook in an international exchange. Coming back to Canada after being away for so long can be a shock.

Last semester I took part in an international exchange to Swansea University in Wales. I haven’t felt reverse culture shock since being back in Canada. I have been fortunate enough to have a supportive family and group of friends who are interested in hearing my stories from Europe. Being able to talk about my journey has helped me take in all that I’ve learned and has let me keep a piece of that trip with me.  However, this is not the case for all students who return from exchange.

This week, Laurier International hosted a re-entry session for students returning to Canada. The evening involved strategies for coping with anxiety associated with being back in Canada and ways the exchange students can use their experience in everyday life, especially pertaining to job interviews.

Barry Leung, a third-year student, partook in an international exchange with me last semester. He returned to Laurier last week and has had trouble adjusting. “Their school system is totally different over in Europe,” said Leung. “So I still had one assignment due (in Europe), and I just handed that in.”

Because schools in Europe continue their semester into January, this is a problem many students face. Alternate assignments often have to be given to international students, which can be hard to deal with when returning back to Canada because resources are not available.

Daisy Heung, a Laurier student, went to South Korea on an international exchange. She is finding it much harder on a social level to readjust to living in Canada. “I felt that I was more suited for the Eastern culture after having experienced it for several months and didn’t feel like I belonged at all here.”

Despite this, Heung had come up with some interesting techniques for coping with this readjustment anxiety. “I pretended that I was here at Laurier on exchange, trying out a new culture, and coupled with time, I felt much better and things looked up.”

The number one re-entry frustration as outlined by the Laurier International program is boredom. Coping with being back at Laurier can be difficult and boring when travel is not a weekly option. Leung stated, “I’m constantly thinking about where do I travel next? When do I travel? I’m always thinking about travel.”

Another frustration can be with friends. Often, friends back in Canada are jealous or too bored to hear stories of your trip. This is my number one recommendation for people dealing with re-entry frustrations. Find someone who is interested in your trip and tell him or her about it. Keeping a journal or writing a blog can help as well.

Laurier International provides open office hours to come and speak to someone about your travels and there is almost always an international volunteer with whom individuals can discuss their travels and future travel plans.

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