DO NOT PUBLISH International students face reverse culture shock

Itzel Leon International Reporter

International students face culture shock when they come to the U.S. but when they head back to their home countries they experience the stress of reverse culture shock.

 “Reverse culture shock is when you go back to your original environment, whatever your definition is: your home, main country. And then you feel like you have to adjust to how things work in your original environment,” Communication Studies instructor Krishnamurti “Java” Murniadi said.

“A lot of international students acclimatize to the American way of life,” Murniadi said. “Especially at Kent State because although it is a big university, the area of Kent State is quite small compared to Ohio state or LSU and international students would have to encounter American students and socialize with them, converse with them.”

There are several aspects of reverse culture shock. The emotional and physical aspects are the two main ones international students tend to deal with.

“A lot of students that come to me they usually talk about social life or dating life because they get used to dating American individuals and then they go back home and it’s so traditional. Things are slower and you’re being scrutinized whereas here, in the social life for individuals they are freer, more independent and a lot of times you don’t have to ask the families or parents for permission to do things. Back home when you try to build a courtship or relationship with somebody, everybody wants to know. They’re nosy,” Murniadi said.

Murniadi who is from Indonesia said he’s mostly experienced the physical aspect of reverse culture shock.

“For me, in general, I think it’s more of a physical aspect. It’s what I feel most people are experiencing,” he said.

Physical aspects of reverse culture shock include the weather, food and even traffic rules.

Computer information science graduate student Vishal Gurijala said one of the things he has to get used to when he goes back to India is the driving rules.

“Last semester in December, I went to India. I experienced a different culture because I’m already used to it (American culture). It is totally different from here and I hadn’t noticed that before. Now I noticed it. Like traffic rules,” he said.

The way people react and treat one another is also a big part of reverse culture shock.

“Generally, people here are friendly. Here we say ‘thank you,’ ‘sorry’ and we mention everything and we express it. That is not the case in my country. That’s the difference I experienced,” Gurijala said.

Stress from reverse culture shock comes when you start to feel distant from your home country and feel as if you don’t belong anymore.

“When I go back to my own country I always end up speaking some English and people think, ‘oh, you just came from another country and you use your English, not your modern language,’” Communication Studies graduate Jiali Wang said.

Wang said when she uses common English words such as “excuse me,” “sorry” and “thank you” people assume she is rich and is only attending an American university for the luxury.

Wang feels distant from her culture because she feels she is being pushed away.

“I feel distant from my culture when they tell me this. I feel sad. Sometimes they don’t think that Chinese students go to another country to study because they are rich, not because they are smart,” she said.

Reverse culture shock can be experienced by anyone, even students who have studied abroad.

Communication studies graduate Kelsey Husnick went to Italy for a semester and when she came back to the U.S. she experienced reverse culture shock.

“I came back and it’s almost like you feel the need to share all of your stories with your friends and your family and it’s like word vomit where you can’t stop talking about it and you can’t stop comparing your life in Italy to things that are happening around you now. And then you start to get very sad because no one really understands,” she said.

Husnick’s experienced the emotional aspect of reverse culture shock.

“I remember there was a support group of me and my Florence family, we called ourselves that, when we got back because we would go through spurts where we would feel really depressed because no one really understood the process we were going through. It is very hard to verbalize because it is a deep feeling. We were all just kind of lost for that summer for a while,” she said.

Reverse culture shock is something most international students and students studying abroad will experience. Some students who haven’t yet experienced it still mentally prepare themselves for it.

The weather is one thing Computer Science major Saketa Gorty is preparing for.

Gorty has experienced reverse culture shock from traveling to other regions in India but never from coming back from the United States.

“That (weather) is the first thing that will come into place. It’s a tropical region so we have a lot of humidity and in Kent it’s been an experience with much snow and winter. That’s going to be an impact when I go back,” she said.

Ways to cope with reverse culture shock includes time, forming a support group and even Facebook.

“I face difficulty for two to three days after going back but after that I’m used to it,” Gurijala said.

“We had a support group. We would start group messaging and would all try and get together and share memories on Facebook. That helped because then we could talk to each other and we understood each other. Slowly, you kind of just sink back slowly into a routine,” Husnick said.

Wang dealt with reverse culture shock with her friends through Facebook and balancing both her Chinese and American culture.

“Everything that happens to us is part of our life, and you should cherish that because we see the joy and the benefits many years from now. Reverse culture shock is not fun and I wish everybody could take that away from them but all those experiences helps them grow. All those difficulties down the road, there are more difficulties than reverse culture shock. But it’s something you have to face and you have to adjust to. You have to prove your adaptability,” Murniadi said.