Leveraging Cultural Exchange to Combat Reverse Culture Shock
At Participate Learning, a key pillar of our dual language and global education offerings lies in the hands and hearts of our dedicated Ambassador Teachers. These highly qualified international teachers travel from all corners of the world to take part in a once-in-a-lifetime experience where they share their teaching expertise, cultural traditions, languages, and world views with the students in the classrooms of our partner schools.
It takes a unique individual to leave their familiar surroundings and embark on a journey that will both challenge and enrich them. Our Ambassador Teachers build classrooms and communities during their cultural exchange stays that help them to combat culture shock, adjust to their new environments, and create a sense of home away from home. After their tenure in the U.S. with Participate Learning, they return back to their home countries and share the lessons they’ve learned with their own classrooms and communities.
Over the course of any extended travel abroad, we learn more about ourselves and transform as we connect with those around us who have new perspectives that broaden the way we view the world and our role within it. While there is certainly an adjustment period with moving to a new country, there can also be a less expected adjustment period to returning back home when your surroundings are familiar but your identity has evolved. Read on to learn four ways you can leverage your cultural exchange experience to ease the effects of reverse culture shock.
Reflect on your exchange with mementos and stories.
One of the simplest but most impactful ways to combat reverse culture shock after returning home is to revisit the keepsakes you brought back with you and share them with people you love. No one will ever be able to truly understand your unique experience, but speaking about fond memories with others will help you feel more connected to it.
As you prepare to leave the U.S., make sure to save little notes and gifts from students and colleagues. They might seem small now, but you will be glad to have them to look back on when you are in your home country and missing your community from the states. Consider hanging some by your desk as positive reminders during your day!
Find an international community in your home country.
When we are in a new country, we are forced out of our comfort zone to try to build relationships because we can’t rely on previous connections to create our support system. Expatriates can be some of the most welcoming people in a new community because they understand the challenges that come with starting fresh in a new place and will often be great resources for asking questions and making new friends.
Even though you are returning home, there is likely still a thriving international community in your area that consists of other internationals from all over the world. Consider joining in international events and meetups that allow you to continue connecting with interesting people who bring exciting conversations and new perspectives in your life.
Integrate your experiences into your lessons.
Just as you had a culture corner in your classroom in the U.S. for students to learn more about your home country, consider implementing a corner that highlights your experiences in the States with your new classroom when you return. Hanging up memories from your lessons and travels allows students to ask questions about your exchange and helps them to learn more about the world beyond their own hometown.
If you find your students are still curious about your time abroad, set up a pen pal initiative in your classroom between your current and former students so they can experience the benefits firsthand of meeting someone from a different culture and background than their own. Integrating global education principles into the current curriculum not only helps you with your transition back to your home culture, but it also develops global citizenship competencies in your students like empathy and critical thinking.
Stay in touch with your abroad community.
Just because you have returned home does not mean that you need to leave behind the community you built during your cultural exchange in the U.S.! Stay connected through social media, video chats, emails, and letters. Setting up regular communication with meaningful people during your time abroad will help you integrate all aspects of your life so that you feel supported in all of your different “homes” around the world.
For more information on how we support our Ambassador Teachers throughout their entire cultural exchange journey, check out this web page. Want to learn more about the extensive benefits of cultural exchange? Read this blog post written by a former Ambassador Teacher.