How to Deal with Reverse Culture Shock After Your Gap Year

By: Mischa Tourin | May 17, 2017
Topics: Education, Travel Skills
Mischa Tourin, one of our star Field Advisors for the 9-month gap year program, wrote a powerful letter to students on managing the transition to life back home.

After 9 months on the road, traveling to over 10 countries and learning 100 new skills, our students on the Winterline Global Skills Gap Year Program have one more river to cross — coming home.

Our Field Advisors travel the entire duration of the gap year with our students, serving as mentors, leaders, supporters, and sometimes just a good shoulder to lean on. Always in a student to advisor ratio of 8:1 or less, our Field Advisors get to know our students extremely well, and are an integral part of the cohort family, as well as of the Winterline program.


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Hello Beautiful Winterliners!

I hope that you are all doing well and enjoying your reunification with your family and friends.

Some of you might be on cloud nine in that “honeymoon” phase… Some of you may have skipped that entirely and gone straight into crisis. Remember that reverse culture shock is a normal experience. You are returning from a crazy whirlwind of a year and it takes time for you and those around you to adjust to the new you. Go easy on yourself through the process… you will adjust!

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Here’s some tips for dealing with reverse culture shock:

1) Connect with people that shared your experience.

There are 19 people that understand what you went through this past year in a way that nobody at home will ever be able to.

However you stay connected, be sure that you do. Reach out on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, email. But don’t forget about the power of a conversation too. We spent the last 245 days (except winter break) seeing each other’s faces every. single. day. If you find that a text or a snapchat just doesn’t meet your need for connection… Reach out! Don’t be afraid to press the call button on your phone and just talk to the folks you spent the last year with.

I hope you all know that the three of us field advisors are always open to chat and curious to hear about your transition back home.

2) Reflect on the year

Journal, Blog, Vlog, edit your thousands of hours of gopro footage or create your own Winterline slideshow of your pictures. Create a wall or a shrine of all the things you collected from around the world.

Spend time to write down quotes and stories. The act of putting pen to paper solidifies those experiences in your mind so you remember them years from now.

Seek out solitude. Go for a hike or even just a walk around town by yourself. Leave your phone at home! Maybe you find a a nice tree to talk to… They’re pretty good listeners.

However you choose to reflect, make sure you make space for it. Some of the greatest learnings from an experience like Winterline happen after the program is over. Be sure you continue looking for them!

3) Share with others

As many of you are discovering, your family and friends may have a limited capacity to relate to your experience. Maybe your family got a whole different perception of your experience through photos and phone calls and you just can’t make them understand what it was really like. Maybe your friends are just more interested in who’s dating who now than hearing about the struggle for democracy in Cambodia.

Go easy on these people.

You will have to find a sweet spot in your story telling. You don’t want to be that person who flips every conversation into “well… when I was in India…” But you also don’t want to keep your experience to yourself and let it fade into memory.

Be intentional about your story telling. Ask people to come over and watch your videos with you, look at photos, and share stories. Create the space for it so you and they know that it’s your time and it’s important.

Prathana and Leo ran into a prospective student at the Cambridge office and got the opportunity to pass their stoke on to someone who may be nervous about taking the leap. What better way to share your stories than you help someone else make a decision that could change their life too? You can talk to Cambridge about being an alumni connection or sharing your experience at your high school. This can be a great way for you to reflect too!

4) Incorporate your experience into home

Keep pursing the things that excited you. Find time to continue exploring the things you found joy in… Cooking, Rock Climbing, Parkour, Sewing, Harp Therapy, French, Biking, Baking, Scuba, Photography, etc. etc. I know I plan to make my own fermented sodas at home… maybe I’ll even take up Bollywood dancing.

Don’t fall back into your old habits (at least the ones that you don’t want to). Look for ways to bring your experience home. Maybe you want to say Buen Provecho before every meal, maybe you want to tell people what you appreciate about them more, or maybe you want to take more time to educate yourself about what’s going on in the world.

Let me know if you want the recipes to make some dope Thai food for your family!

5) Give yourself permission to relax

In the marathon to reconnect, make sure that you also take time to chill.

If you love to sleep… then take some time to sleep! Play some video games, watch netflix, lounge on the couch. You’ve been going, going, going for nine months straight. We pretty much didn’t have a weekend for the past 9 months, so I think we can take at least one to do nothing at all… maybe two.

Be patient with yourself as you go through the different emotions and changes that go along with reverse culture shock. Remember that it’s normal, natural and that it will pass! Most importantly, remember that your peers are probably going through the same thing. It’s ok to lean on each other.

6) Check out DropBox!

Here is the link (private) to a dropbox account that has some wonderful reminders of your year with Winterline. These are great things to share with your friends and family as a way to start telling your story!

In it, you’ll find the following things:

  • The Slideshow
  • The Grad Performance
  • Europe Independent Study Project Presentations
  • Startup Business Pitches
  • Monteverde Independent Study Project Presentations
  • Whistling Woods Film and Documentary Videos

You’ll want to download these things to store personally as you wont have access to this folder forever. We’ll let you know when the startup pitches or anything else gets uploaded.

I miss you all!
Mischa


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