Photos by Micah Lambert
So you’ve traveled the world, met interesting people and tried exotic foods. Now it’s finally time to return home, a place that should be familiar and comfortable. But upon arrival, you soon realize no one speaks your language. I’m not talking about English or French or German, but the language of growth, discovery and dramatic change. How is it possible to feel more lost in your hometown than you did in the far-off destinations you explored?
If you’ve traveled for any amount of time, chances are you’ve experienced the phenomenon called culture shock, or feelings of disorientation, frustration and discomfort when you transition from one environment to another.
I am no stranger to culture shock. I studied abroad in Heidelberg and spent the subsequent two summers working in Germany. Sure, it was difficult to make new friends, learn the language, decipher social norms, etc., but it was also extremely exciting. The undeniably more difficult part was returning home and trying to figure out how to fit back into my old life. I may have looked the same on the outside, but I had changed in countless ways on the inside.
Most Pepperdine students will experience culture shock at some point during college, be when coming home from an international program or simply moving to Southern California from a different state or country. No matter how far you’ve traveled, it is helpful to use these three tricks to combat the inevitable culture shock blues.
1. The 30-Second Answer
The first few weeks home are full of exciting reunions with family and friends. You feel like a celebrity when everyone asks you, “How was your trip?” But you’ll soon discover there are two types of people: those who want the full, detailed answer, and those who simply want the summarized 30-second answer. Before I understood this distinction, I tried to tell everyone the long version and was mad when they didn’t seem interested. Instead, search out a few key people with listening ears to sit down with and divulge everything in the unabridged version.
2. Be A Tourist
The wonderment you felt abroad doesn’t have to disappear once you get home, you can find adventure in your own backyard! Get out into your city and do a ‘touristy’ thing you’ve never done before; eat at a new restaurant or visit that interesting museum you’ve always driven past. Instead of frequenting the same old spots in the Malibu area, for instance, try exploring a new beach or hiking one of the many trails through the canyon.
3. Don’t Over Romanticize
Our brains are great at over-romanticizing memories. We view the past through rose-colored glasses and only remember the thrilling, positive moments. It is so easy to forget all the difficult, painful challenges you faced abroad. Forcing yourself to remember your experience in its entirety will give you a more well-rounded picture, and this will ease the longing to jump in a time machine and go back.
The pros of traveling far outweigh the cons, but it is still important to prepare yourself for reentry as best you can. Pepperdine can feel like a foreign country sometimes, so be sure to remember these tools when you feel culture-shocked this semester.
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