I was warned about reverse culture shock before I left Romania. I’ve only been back a few days, so I don’t think I know exactly what it looks like yet, but considering I did not experience culture shock in Romania until about two months after I got there, it would not surprise me if it is a bit late in setting in here too. The whole concept of “reverse culture shock” seems strange to me. That I should be shocked by my own home, where I’ve grown up and been formed for the past three years. How could three and a half months change me so much as to forget my own home?
But whatever it will look like, I don’t think it will stem from the obvious differences. The initial shock of walking into a grocery store and gazing down the cereal aisle. Experiences like that bring the full realization of how much stuff I have and show me the amount of thought and conversation that is devoted to the material. Then there is the fact that everyone speaks English, that I now rely on a car, that I am constantly tied to my cell phone, and that USD costs a lot more than Romanian lei. But these are all surface level differences. Initial reactions. I think that what will really be shocking is deeper and more difficult to sift out.
I have grown over the past semester with an entirely different group of people and those people grew with me. We shared many similar experiences and learned similar lessons. But because we were together, it was difficult to identify the ways we changed. Now that I am back, I am with people who have learned their own lessons and grown in different ways. Three and half months of learning and growing lay between me and them. They will never fully understand my experiences, nor I understand theirs.
I believe that this is where the reverse shock will come from. And although transitioning will be difficult and awkward at times, I am thankful because through this transition, I will see more clearly how I have grown during my semester abroad. Perhaps this is one of the most important reasons to come home from time to time: To see how far we have grown from our roots.