Departure board

An international student’s guide to going home: reverse culture shock

You’ve completed your course, exams and assessments are over – you’re finished. Going home may have been far from your mind, but now the date of your departure from the university and the UK is fast-approaching.

pre-departure admin

Before you leave there are many ‘administrative tasks’ you’ll need to do. You may wish to close bank accounts and end any memberships you’ve had. You may need to pay outstanding bills and notify any utility companies. If you’re not sure where to start in terms of pre-departure admin, write a list of any direct debits, standing orders or payments coming out of your bank account – you’ll then know which companies you need to contact.

Apart from the administrative tasks of leaving the UK, you’ll need to prepare yourself for returning home. It is not uncommon to experience some forms of reverse culture shock, where you may go through a period of adjustment upon your return home.

returning home: family & friends

For some being reunited with family and friends is a wonderful experience. However, for others it may be a bittersweet experience. Your experiences in the UK may have changed you in some or many ways. Your cultural values or political views may have changed, you may be more independent or prefer different types of food. As a result your family and friends may find it hard to adjust to the ‘new you’. Likewise, family and friends may have changed too. From new family members, marriages, bereavements, there could be many things that you will have to get used to now you’re home.


If you’re looking for work in your home country you may be surprised that employment law, working practices and cultural views on work may be different to what you have experienced in the UK. This may be frustrating, confusing or even cause colleagues to view you with suspicion or have unrealistic expectations of you.

economy, politics & culture

The economic climate in your country may have improved or got worse whilst you’ve been gone. Politics may or may not have changed. You may find that you find it difficult to tolerate particular cultural practices or opinions. As a returning international student to your home country you may find there are certain expectations or stereotypes placed on you that make you feel uncomfortable. For example, in China returning students are sometimes referred to as “sea turtles” “海龟 hai gui”.

If you are returning to your home country with children, you may find that they struggle to adjust to a new school system, using a different language and making new friends.


reducing the effect of reverse culture shock

Here are some ways in which you can manage the effects of reverse culture shock.

The most important thing you can do is to be prepared to experience reverse culture shock. Be aware that you may experience elements of reverse culture shock and accept that it may take some time to adjust.

Keep in contact with friends you’ve made at university. You may want to form group on social media with your close friends to make keeping in touch easier.

If you have made friends from your home country it might be helpful to try to arrange to meet them for reunions, form a social media group or alumni organisation, if one doesn’t already exist in your home country. Sharing your experiences together can often be very helpful.

You may also want to contact the British Council in your country, as there may be a UK alumni organisation you can join. Here are just a few of the many British Council supported UK alumni organisations:

British Council Chinese alumni organisation 

British Council Hong Kong alumni organisation

British Council Kazakhstan alumni organisation

UK Vietnamese alumni association

Association of British Scholars (India)

Finally, as a University of Brighton alumni you are entitled to use the university’s career service and alumni services. You can get advice on finding work in your home country or in the UK, as well as accessing our alumni support network.


Links and useful reading:

UKCISA: Reverse culture shock

US News article on reverse culture shock



alumniculture shockgoing homehomesickReverse culture shocksea turtle

Sarah Digon • June 5, 2017

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