Lesson 3: What can you experience when you come back to your own country?

Lesson 3 Chapter 1

Common feelings volunteers experience:

Some people can quickly move on when they return to their home country. They make plans for their new daily life and the future. On the other hand, it can also be hard to get back. When we look at the database of more than a hundred former volunteers, we found that most volunteers experienced mixed feelings when they return. Common feelings are:

  • Happiness for seeing their family and friends again. 
  • Eagerness to share their story with people back home
  • Feeling misunderstood. It is common that volunteers feel misunderstood since they are sharing their experiences with someone that has no first hand experience of what they are talking about. It thus becomes hard to capture the experience in a story.
  • Feelings of 'homesickness'. Strong feelings towards missing the close bonds and the warm culture they were in.
  • 'Back to reality' feeling. Most volunteers find it hard to cope with the (often) faster rhythm of life back home.
  • Sad feelings without really knowing why
  • Feeling of being lonely

It helps to keep in mind that these feelings are normal and are part of life. If you look at the Culture Shock Model below, you can see that Reverse Culture Shock can give feelings that might be as severe as the initial culture shock. 


How can you cope with these feelings?

It is good to know you can cope with these feelings in a healthy way. Culture shock is actually about 'transition stress'. Because you are moving back, your life changes and turns everything around. This can give stress. 

The '5-R tool' gives you insight in which areas you can experience a feeling of 'stress' when it comes to culture shock. It makes you aware of your purpose and understand it on a deeper level. Here are some tips of how you can turn these processes into something good when you return home:



Your daily routine will probably change. You have to find a new routine in life. Things like eating healthily, doing sports, waking up and going to sleep are part of this. Get a structure in your week and day, even when you do not have work/school where you have to go to. Be aware of what works for you: how can I serve myself the best in taking care of myself when it comes to routine? What activities give me energy?



People react different in other cultures. Familiarize yourself with the way other people communicate: how they may react differently, how you interpret the message, how you respond and the effect of that communication. Being aware and respecting others prevents you from miscommunication.



‚ÄčHow people see you and what they expect of you, but also what you expect from yourself, might differ from when you were at your project. For example, people at your project were very open and there was equality in the team and you were treated like one of them. However, when you return home and get a job with a strong hierarchy, you have to be a coworker and for everything you do you have to get permission from your boss. Ask yourself who do you want to be? Make a moodboard or write on a paper who you want to be and what kind of actions that will take.



When you come back your relationships are changed, back home but also with the project you volunteered. Make a list of all the people that you want to invest in. Or think about ways you meet new people.



When you return to your home country you can be confronted with a lot of things. The way people live, cope with things, their norms and values, their habits, the rhythm of life, the mentality etc. It can make you question a lot of things. Write your thoughts down. Research shows that writing calms the mind. It reduces stress as it help individuals process their thoughts and emotions especially when you feel like some things are stuck in your head.

Keep in mind that you should give yourself time to process everthing. Plan and do things you love and enjoy, it will give you (new) energy!

Next lesson:Upgrade your volunteer experience