As a previous exchange student to Germany, I know what re-entry shock is first-hand. However, I did not know that there was a word for it until reading chapter 4. It took me 9 months to get used to the United States again. That period of time was almost as difficult as adjusting to Germany’s culture. I knew that people change after spending a period of time overseas; however I was unprepared for re-entry, which entailed much more than I could have imagined and I wished I had prepared myself for it as much as I did for Germany’s culture.
Some of the major symptoms of re-entry shock are boredom (from a lack of new and exciting places and things around you), feelings of being insignificant (realizing you are not so special because people back home aren’t in awe of your accent, etc.) and feeling isolated from family and friends (who did not change while you were gone or did change so much, it is hard to catch up with them). The study abroad page of Wesleyan University offers this insight as well, “While there is always an element of excitement at getting back into things and seeing old friends, returning students are also keenly aware that they have missed out on what has been going on at home, at school, and with their friends for the past semester or year. This can all prove very disconcerting and sometimes downright depressing. If you couple anxiety about coming home with missing the new friends and the new way of life you found off campus, coming home can be emotionally quite difficult. The more you invested personally in your off-campus culture, the harder you may find it to return.” This is more or less what happened to me because I was so intent on fitting-in in Germany and only speaking German (yes, I even came home with a weird accent) that it was a lot harder for me to go back to being an ‘American’ so-to-say.
People are people, but their views on life and what is important are different depending on their culture. It is important to travel with an open mind and to not judge foreigners in your native country by assumptions based on their culture (like all Germans are uptight). Likewise, it is important to return home with an open mind and to not judge America’s ways by the culture you have just left. No one culture is better than another, just different.
"Wesleyan University: Office of International Studies." Web. 31 Jan 2010.