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Dear Study Abroad Returnee: Reverse Culture Shock


Dear Study Abroad Returnee,

Welcome back! I hope your 3.5-5 months “studying” in another country was as amazing as your abandoned blog and numerous Instagram posts made it seem, because it’s all downhill from here. Not to fret, though, the GA has compiled this guide to help you re-integrate into the culture you never really left. We know it can be difficult, coping with reverse culture shock, but with the right heads-up, we are sure you will be back to the normal Claremont routine in no time, having completely forgotten whatever life-changing lessons you learned while away. With that said, here are some things you’ll definitely want to be on the lookout for:


As you may or may not recall, California English is the lingua franca of the 5Cs, and it is normal if you take 1-3 months to re-adjust to this dialect, especially if you just came back from somewhere like Budapest (did you know it’s two different cities?!) or Cambridge. You may be additionally confused, however, by the addition of some new slang to the lexicon. For example, if you hear someone casually drop “shella” in conversation, that’s just a way to emphasize the quality of something marine-related (e.g. “Yo, we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, it was shella dope!”). Or, if you start coming across the hashtag #RFYLLOL, you need only check the news and see what ridiculous latest event means you need to Run For Your Life Laughing Out Loud. Lastly, just keep in mind that the word “lit” now means the opposite of what it meant when you left. You’ll catch on.


Certainly one of the most disturbing things you will come across upon your return is that CMC’s “beloved” dining hall looks COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. Whereas you probably recall an aesthetic reminiscent of all the best aspects of your high school cafeteria and the main hall of a convention center rolled into one, prepare to be greeted by a complete, cost-justifying renovation. While opinions differ on the new look, popular descriptors range from “Star Trek-style 20th century futurism” and “depressingly clinical” to “why are the walls decorated with plates?” and “where the hell did the booths go?”. If this inspires existential panic, though, be assured that the food options are exactly the same. So, uh, that’s cool.

New Power Structures

If you are a Pomona student (#ChirpChirp #47 #PomExit2k18), you will remember receiving poorly formatted, awkwardly worded emails from a white man named David Oxtoby in the past. Well, now those come from a black woman named G. Gabrielle Starr. By all accounts she’s pretty awesome, though it remains to be seen if she will be able to pass through any major legislative accomplishments during her first year in office. Oh, and there were probably administrative changes at the other schools, but whatever. Also, we think Keck is now a pizza shop and the Divinity school is going to Oregon.


Unless you went on one of those programs that expected you to do enriching academic work comparable to the kind you would be faced with at an elite liberal arts college such as Scripps, Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, or Pomona, your past semester was probably more of a “cultural” learning experience than anything. Like, getting exposure to the culture of Salamanca erasmus fuckbois or the culture of Australian beach binge drinking. So, it is only natural that back here in “the States” you may find yourself disappointed by the relative lack of, um, culture. Will you get used to dorm parties again? Yes. Will you like it? After enough shots, probably. Get over it, go to your friend’s art show, or a cappella concert, or whatever, and be grateful there are multiple bars in the Village for when you need to feel like you’re living somewhere exciting again.

First Years

Lastly, you may notice a strange new breed crawling around your campus, eating in your dining halls, perhaps even piping up in your classes: the Class of 2021! But, these aren’t like the timid children you remember meeting at the beginning of your sophomore year. No, they seem…oddly comfortable in this second-semester college environment. They may, and this is hard to admit but it’s definitely a possibility, they may even seem more well-adjusted than you. More connected. Cooler, even. Well, that’s not a problem, you just need to find your groove again, maybe ask that person you remember being friends with out for a meal next week. Wait, they’re just starting out in Copenhagen. Fuck.

So, there you have it, hopefully these tips will prove useful as you reunite, by turn awkwardly and enthusiastically, with people you have not seen in 9-15 months. It can be a challenging time getting re-accustomed to the exotic banality of Claremont, so we encourage you to reach out for help when you forget how an ID card works or why it’s best to avoid the party hosted by that one dude. You especially may want to consider talking to international students, since by now you probably know exactly what their experience has been like here.


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