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What to Expect: Physical surroundings

Has your home country undergone growth?

Will adjusting to a different level of pollution, crowding
or congestion bother you?

Has the landscape at home undergone dramatic
changes? (like destruction, development, construction or deterioration)

Knowing what to expect when you return home can make a big difference in how you see and react to the physical changes around you. If you have stayed up-to-date with friends, family or someone who has recently come to the U.S. from your home country, you will have a more realistic expectation of the changes that have occurred while you were gone. However, if you haven’t really given it much thought and suddenly arrive and see that parts of your city have been replaced with a new highway, or that war has destroyed the landscape, or what you remembered as a small, quiet little town has become a busy city—then you will surely feel confused or disconnected.

Also, if you have grown used to the atmosphere of the university town or city in the U.S. where you have studied, you will see your home country with new eyes. Perhaps you will go home with a greater appreciation for the highly developed public transportation system in your country. Or maybe you will feel greatly relieved not to have to talk in English all the time or worry about finding someone you can trust to fix your car. But, things that didn’t bother you about your homeland before might now seem strange, annoying or unpleasant as well. Many returning students refer to their struggle in readjusting to the increase or decrease in commotion, dirt, crowds and pace of life. Others have trouble readjusting to a quieter pace or environment. Some have grown used to faster and more convenient ways to accomplish tasks and begin to feel critical about how less-developed their country seems in comparison to the U.S.

While you may struggle to some degree as you adjust to the physical surroundings of your home country, you can make it easier by preparing yourself for what might or might not disturb you. If while in the U.S. you have come to appreciate the sanitation in public places or the courtesy in lines, take some time to realize what you can and can’t do about the situation back home. First, realize how it will differ. Does your country have much higher or lower standards of cleanliness than what you experienced in the U.S.? Decide how you will respond to that difference. Will you allow dirt or pollution to affect you negatively? Will you feel out of place living in a more upscale or high-class neighborhood at home if you have lived in an older, badly maintained area while studying in the U.S.? Will you do something proactive about your living situation or just conform to the way it is without allowing it to bother you? Be realistic.

If your home country has undergone a great deal of development during your absence, you could take some time to figure out how it has changed. A few ideas include talking to someone who has recently spent time there, looking up information online or in publications, or finding your area on Google Earth and zooming in to see how the changes will affect your commute, daily transportation or the neighborhoods where you spend a lot of time. Getting some feel for this up front, before you return, will decrease the amount of stress that it causes when you stand in your own city and feel lost.