Participant Perspectives

Participant Perspectives

My Pagoda Story – Alice O’Donnell, Cardiff Metropolitan University

In this #MyPagodaStory series, we’re featuring guest blogs from participants that completed our Easter Skills Programme. This is Pagoda participant Alice O’Donnell, from Cardiff Metropolitan University!

Keep reading to see how Alice improved her cultural awareness and intercultural communication skills, gained digital fluency, and learned some valuable insights about China through conversations with her cultural mentor!

I am Alice O’Donnell, a third-year Fashion Design student studying at Cardiff Metropolitan University. I decided to join the virtual Easter Programme as I believed that it would help me to gain a better understanding of cultures, and also provide me with important and knowledgeable information to prepare me as a graduate.

Throughout the past three weeks, I have enjoyed completing all four courses that Pagoda had to offer, each course providing me with different information. The first course that I took was called ‘Cultural Fluency’. I particularly enjoyed this course as it taught me all about intercultural communication which is a really valued skill. I can now say that I have some awareness on how to interact with people from cultures different to my own. This course made me more aware of communication differences which will benefit me in the future, as I can avoid misunderstandings when communicating with overseas clients in a potential fashion design role in the near future. I then found it particularly interesting to learn about the culture of Greater China, Mexico and Vietnam, specifically their cuisines as I am one to try new tasty foods.

I can now say that I have some awareness on how to interact with people from cultures different to my own.

The next three courses that I took were more focused on employability skills and digital communication, therefore setting me up for the workplace after graduation. These courses were educational, in particular the digital competency course. This is because a lot of the fashion industry is promoted through imagery and so understanding the best times to post on certain platforms and how long a caption should be on certain platforms was very useful.

I have also been in contact with my Chinese mentor, Aubree, over the past three weeks. The conversations with Aubree have been insightful and it has been lovely spending time on the weekends to communicate with her. We have discussed the topic ‘communication’ and how it differs between our cultures. I found it interesting that in China a manager may ask “have you eaten” as a way of greeting their employees. Aubree explained that this is because in China they like to make sure that everyone is well-fed. She also explained that in China they have an app called ‘Wechat’ which is used as a central hub for communication between friends, lecturers and colleagues. In England, we do not have an equivalent to this app, and we spread ourselves across multiple platforms such as Snapchat for friends, Microsoft Teams for education, and communication via email for colleagues.

This has been a very enjoyable experience for me and I am glad that I took it upon myself to get involved.

We have also discussed the environment and a lot of the issues that arose were mutual across both of our cultures. Single-use plastic is a big issue in both of our home countries, and I explained that there has been a new law introduced where you now must purchase a plastic bag at the supermarket for 5p. I was surprised to hear that in fact, China has also introduced this law too.

We both discussed how canvas bags are popular, particularly among teenagers, and Aubree mentioned that canvas bags are also used as school bags in China. We then had a very interesting chat about how we can reduce buying cheaper goods that break easily, and instead buy items and clothing with longevity. The issue that we both concluded here was that cheaper goods are more accessible, resulting in a never-ending cycle as items with longevity are often more expensive and therefore less accessible to many.

I am an individual that cannot wait to explore the world, and speaking with Aubree has made me excited to one day visit China and pick up on some of the things we have discussed.

The final topic that Aubree and I discussed was the arts. This topic was interesting to talk about as I am a creative individual and we both agreed that the arts deserve more credit. Aubree discussed that in her family art is very important, and they have a sentimental vase that has been passed down through the family which they really value. We also agreed that we are both individuals that are confident when around friends, but lack some confidence talking and performing in front of people that we do not know.

I had a lot more in common with Aubree than I had originally thought. I am an individual that cannot wait to explore the world, and speaking with Aubree has made me excited to one day visit China and pick up on some of the things we have discussed. The interaction on the app was really useful for me to keep track of weekly discussion points, and I also interacted with some of the games and events that were held. This has been a very enjoyable experience for me and I am glad that I took it upon myself to get involved.

Participant Perspectives

My Pagoda Story – Jessica Herbert, Cardiff Metropolitan University

In this #MyPagodaStory series, we’re featuring guest blogs from participants that completed our Easter Skills Programme. This is Pagoda participant Jessica Herbert, from Cardiff Metropolitan University!

Keep reading to see how Jessica worked on her self-development, gained new skills, and formed connections with a cultural mentor from Taipei, Taiwan!

About Me

My Name is Jessica Herbert. I am a second-year student at Cardiff Metropolitan University, studying Business and Management (Law). During my course, I am required to do a work experience module. Originally, when I applied for my degree course with Cardiff Met, one of the main things that interested me was the opportunity to study abroad and learn about different cultures and ways of life. However, due to Covid-19 and the global pandemic, this opportunity began to slip away. When a tutor introduced us to Pagoda Projects and the programmes/opportunities they had, I was not going to let this one pass me by.

After doing some of my own research about Pagoda Projects and reading some of the testimonials of other students, I thought this would be the perfect way to use the work experience module to my advantage and use the time for some self-development. I applied to the Easter Programme, secured a place, and was so excited to get started and be paired with my Cultural Mentor.

Pagoda couldn’t have matched me with a better mentor, and I am so pleased to have met Meredith and believe I have made a friend for life.

Beginning My Programme

Before I knew it, it was time to start the programme. The team at Pagoda were helpful when it came to starting. We had a meeting on the first Monday about how the course will work, what’s really involved, and how they can help us. When I applied, I wasn’t quite aware of all the courses that were available to me. It was interesting to see just how much was available, and it’s amazing having access to these courses even after the 3-week programme is finished, meaning there is no pressure to feel like you need to complete them all as soon as possible. It was also nice to see all the events the Pagoda team have set up during the programme such as movie night and a cook along, bringing a social aspect to the course.

On starting the programme, we had access to the Pagoda App, which we were then paired up with our cultural mentor, with an option to chat online and join groups with other individuals on the programme. I began speaking to my cultural mentor ‘Meredith’ via the app platform, where we arranged our first video call via Zoom.

Cultural Mentor

My Cultural Mentor was a girl called Meredith. She lives in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, and this was her first time being a mentor in the programme. We were both quite nervous when we first video called, but it only took a couple of minutes and a discussion about dumplings to get us on the right track. The hardest part of the cultural mentor experience for me was the time difference factor. The time difference for Meredith and me is about 8 hours, so it was easy to miss that perfect time for both of us.

During our first video chat, we exchanged Instagram accounts to make it easier to speak and keep each other updated with photos about our day/week during the programme duration. We arranged to have another call at the same time the following week, but without meaning to we started talking more over social media, getting to know each other better. It has almost become second nature to speak to Meredith every day, and it feels as though we have known each other for a long time. Pagoda couldn’t have matched me with a better mentor, and I am so pleased to have met Meredith and believe I have made a friend for life. We are even discussing a visit at some point next year, which would be amazing.

Finishing My Experience

The three-week programme has flown by. This experience has been amazing, I would 100% recommend it to other students and I will definitely be looking into other Pagoda Project programmes. The programme couldn’t have come at a better time for me, alongside my University work, it has given me time to reflect on my self-development and pick up some new interests. I am looking forward to finishing the courses I have access to and developing my knowledge and skills. I would like to thank Pagoda for matching me with a great mentor and thanks to them I have a new friend for life.

Image of Christmas tree and ornamets
Internships Advice, Participant Perspectives

My Pagoda Story – Marissa Kodikara, Cardiff University

In this #MyPagodaStory series, we’re featuring guest blogs from participants that just completed our Christmas Special Programme. This is Pagoda Participant Marissa Kodikara, from Cardiff University.

Keep reading to see how Marissa attained a newfound appreciation for her own culture through meetings with a cultural mentor from China, all while gaining valuable employability and workplace skills!

Throughout taking this programme I really felt that I was able to develop my personal and professional skillset, which surprised me over such a short amount of time. I thoroughly enjoyed how flexible everything was, and I found the programme to be accessible, just on my laptop, and fun. To me, the whole Pagoda team were so welcoming and encouraging about expanding everyone’s skillset, and I felt so involved from the beginning even without in-person communication. I genuinely feel that this programme, even though only 3 weeks, has opened my mind and made me more curious about the business world overall, and interactions with other cultures. Therefore, I will definitely be doing my best to keep in touch with many of the Pagoda team and people on the programme, as they all have such unique experiences that I would love to learn more about.

Live and Recorded Sessions

I really liked having access to so many webinars and extra videos, as this provided such ease for understanding. All the videos I got around to watching were incredibly engaging, and I’d have to say my favourite was actually the live webinar on ‘Managing Across Cultures’ – probably because it was a live event, which meant I was able to communicate with other people on the programme and the Pagoda team themselves. This session taught me so many things I would have never known otherwise, and it definitely widened my horizon to how important it is to understand another culture in terms of the workplace and more. The other pre-recorded webinars were also so interesting, and I think they will definitely help me later on when applying for internships and jobs!

Skills Workshops

These were incredibly useful in adding to my skillsets, and the workshops themselves were really concise but also provided really great information and advice. I also really enjoyed that we were given a digital certificate upon completion, which tied together the end of the workshop so perfectly. In particular, I thought the LinkedIn workshop was very useful because even though I had a page before, I was not sure how to amend it so that employers would be satisfied. The webinar in this workshop broke down easy steps for me to follow, and I hope that soon my LinkedIn page will be appreciated by many, thanks to Pagoda.

I genuinely feel that this programme, even though only 3 weeks, has opened my mind and made me more curious about the business world overall, and interactions with other cultures.

The self-reflection aspect of the employability workshop proved very interesting to me. What I really liked about this was that it did not just scratch the surface but had multiple personality tests to take, and then went on to make me think further about what this meant for me individually and how it applies to a working situation. This was incredibly useful, especially as I am not certain of the job I would want, so being able to see where I would fit (alongside the other workshops, which indicated what I could do in situations) was really intriguing.

Cultural Mentor

This was potentially my favourite part of the whole programme as it was so different from anything I have experienced before and probably not something I will always have the chance to do. I really appreciated the time that I got to spend talking to 江 as not only was this extra interaction during the COVID19 pandemic really nice, but it was so interesting to learn more about his life and China in general. It was also great to talk about the UK, as questions were asked which made me think and actually appreciate parts of UK culture I did not really recognise before.

remote internship
Internships Advice, Participant Perspectives

My Pagoda Story- Natalia Wilkowska, DMU

In this #MyPagodaStory series, we’re featuring guest blogs from participants that just completed our remote programmes. This is Pagoda Participant Natalia Wilkowska, from DMU, who recently completed her Global Competencies programme!

Keep reading to see how Natalia balanced her busy Architectural Technology class schedule, part-time job, and the Global Competencies Programme during her time with Pagoda!

My name is Natalia and I’m studying Architectural Technology at De Montfort University in Leicester. I took part in the 4-week Pagoda Projects Global Competencies Programme, which gave me the opportunity to develop my skills through Pagoda’s digital skills courses. The courses focused on improving cultural fluency, employability and digital skills. There were many other programme components like weekly live events, as well as conversations with my cultural mentor. My cultural mentor and I had a chance to virtually meet each other and discuss a variety of topics. The programme was an innovative option to gain cultural knowledge and improve my employability skills. What’s more, it was fully digital! This meant that I could finish the programme while studying and working.

Due to the current situation, it has been easier for me to coordinate academic studies, extracurricular courses, part-time work and personal commitments, since all are taking place from home. As there is no need to travel and move about, that time can be used for different tasks. For example, I could spend that time on the skills courses – I could finish them all at once or save my progress and come back later.

Workplace view!


As a 3rd Year Architectural Technology student, my studies and dissertation are my priority. However, in taking part in the Global Citizenship Course and learning about Sustainable Development Goals at university, I was able to expand on knowledge directly related to my course.

The programme taught me how to develop time management skills. Thanks to the cultural mentor aspect, I also improved my communication skills.

In my spare time, I often talk to my family and friends in Poland where I come from. I also spend time with my flatmate who is also my best friend. I really enjoy exercising as well. Recently, I started attending online fitness classes which I think is a great way to keep balance.

During the Pagoda Global Competencies Programme, I needed to combine all of these activities. The programme itself taught me how to develop my time management skills. Thanks to the cultural mentor aspect, I improved my communication skills. The access to digital courses provided me not only with certificates, but also useful knowledge and interesting facts about various countries, people and habits that I previously didn’t know about. Furthermore, I enhanced my digital skills which are helpful for university and I developed my employability skills which are useful for the future. Overall, it was definitely an exciting experience!


Internships Advice, Participant Perspectives

My Pagoda Story – Josie Davies, Cardiff University

In this #MyPagodaStory series, we’re featuring guest blogs from participants that just completed our Christmas Special Programme. This is Pagoda Participant Josie Davies, from Cardiff University.

Keep reading to see how Josie got to discover Mexico from her room while improving her digital skills and employability!

Before enrolling on the Cardiff Christmas Special Pagoda Programme, I had no idea what to expect. I have always enjoyed learning about different cultures and engaging with people from various walks of life so I thought I may benefit from enhancing my cultural knowledge. I was also attracted to the employability and digital competency aspect of the programme because at the time I was applying for placements and wanted advice on how to improve my applications.

skills courses

Cultural Mentor Experience

My expectations of this programme were exceeded, and I felt that I have learnt a lot about many countries, in particular Mexico, but also Vietnam and China. My cultural mentor meetings were the highlight of my experience on this programme because I had a great connection with Danny and got first-hand information about what it is like to live in Mexico.

I learnt some very interesting facts about New Year’s celebrations from Danny. Learning about celebrities in Mexico was also fascinating to me because I found it bizarre which celebrities from the UK were famous there. Unfortunately, I knew of very little Mexican celebrities which highlighted my lack of awareness of where people originate from. This inspired me to make sure I take time to learn where people come from and learn more about their background.

skills course

Online Skill Courses

The Digital Competency course has benefited me in so many ways, but particularly the LinkedIn workshop has helped be immensely. Before this skills course I was so unsure about how to use LinkedIn and was not entirely sure what it was good for. After completing the course, I was then able to go and set up my account and develop my profile in a way that is attractive to professionals in my field. Since this I have been constantly developing my connections and have been reaching out to professionals, all thanks to this course.

I would recommend this programme to anyone hoping to improve their employability, intercultural fluency, or digital skills as there are so many courses and webinars to help.

I am now more motivated than ever to develop a wide range of skills further and more specifically I am looking to improve my Spanish ability so that I can speak to a larger range of people, my cultural meetings with Danny have inspired me to do this.

Internship Experience, Participant Perspectives

My Pagoda Story – Alys Patterson, Cardiff Metropolitan University

In this #MyPagodaStory series, we’re featuring guest blogs from participants that just completed our Christmas Special Programme. This is Pagoda Participant Alys Patterson, from Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Keep reading to see how Alys enhanced her employability with our courses and broadened her horizons through her cultura mentor calls… All during her Christmas break!

I was very excited to learn mid-December that I had been accepted to take part in a 3-week virtual Christmas special programme. This opportunity provided me with a positive way of staying productive over the Christmas holidays and gave me valuable insights into numerous cultures. There were 3 main tasks involved in the programme that included an hour-long weekly chat with an assigned cultural mentor, completing at least 2 out of 4 online courses, and actively engaging with pre-recorded workshops.

Cultural Mentor Experience

I was lucky enough to be paired with Juliet Zhou originally from Shantou City in China, but currently studying in Beijing. Juliet was so lovely to get to know, and it was so interesting to talk about our goals and values. We learnt despite coming from different cultures, we shared a great deal in common.

Despite initially being afraid Juliet and I would have nothing in common, the experience made me realise that my fear was misguided. I learnt that when interacting with someone from a different culture, there are many possibilities you may find shared interests.

This programme has allowed me to expand my knowledge on multiple topics such as Asian Culture via my cultural mentor and improve my digitals skills. I am wholeheartedly sure that every aspect of this programme will positively impact my future, and I am so thankful for that.

Online Skill Courses

I managed to complete and thoroughly enjoy all four courses on Employability Skills, Digital Competency, Cultural Influences and Workplace Basics.

I learnt so much about effectively using LinkedIn and updated my CV and cover letter to a much more professional standard. I also completed a SWOT analysis to determine the target areas I would like to improve on.

Christmas Challenges

As this programme ran over the Christmas holidays, it was great to see the Pagoda Projects team provide Christmas themed activities. It felt like such a unique project to be a part of due to their hard work.

I often found myself working on a skills course and then having a fun little break to participate in some of the themed activities such as the Christmas decorations and jumper challenge and nabbing third place in the Christmas destinations quiz! I cannot help but applaud the team for taking the time to provide us with some entertainment over the festive period.


Cultural, Participant Perspectives

How I Experienced Asia From My Room: Jakub Nowicki

In this #MyPagodaStory series, we’re featuring guest blogs from participants that just completed our remote Global Competencies programme. Today from De Montfort University (DMU), we have Jakub Nowicki. Keep reading to see how Jakub got to experience Asia right from his room, and how he gained employability skills along the way!

Remote Internship

In early November, I received an email that I had been accepted into the Pagoda Projects Global Competencies programme. The program was to consist of a 4-week remote internship, which was to provide a positive outcome to the forced isolation through this latest scholarship opportunity. The team at Pagoda Projects were determined to ensure student experience remains high while we are all adapting to life throughout the pandemic.

Global Competencies Programme

Global Competencies can be divided into three large sections – weekly conversations with a foreign mentor (in my case I was paired with Oscar Liou from Taiwan), regular thematic webinars, and most importantly, expertly prepared courses enabling students to improve ‘work readiness’ for a post-pandemic business world. It sounds like a dream opportunity for every student, right? And IT WAS!

Skill Courses

During the 4-week period, I managed to create a brilliant CV, prepare a template for my cover letter, and do a self-assessment about my skillset – my strong points and points needing more development.

To start with, huge respect to the Pagoda Projects team for preparing such amazing skill courses. The first one I started working on was aimed at Cultural Fluency. During the prepared lessons, I broadened my knowledge about Greater China, Mexico, and Vietnam. Additionally, I am convinced that I am now better prepared for international communication within the industry. Next on the list was the Employability course. Hands down it was my favorite, but it was also the one I spend the most time on. During the 4-week period, I managed to create a brilliant CV, prepare a template for my cover letter, and do a self-assessment about my skillset – my strong points and points needing more development.

The course also taught me about the importance of self-presentation and our digital profiles. I firmly believe that all that knowledge will have a huge impact on my employment in the nearest future. Last but not least, Digital Competency. I started with lessons about LinkedIn – its importance and benefits. With clear guidelines, I created and set up my first professional LinkedIn profile. In the next steps, I started learning about the basics of digital marketing and SEO skills. The course ended with a masterclass on presenting and public speaking. Long story short, all the courses were carefully and thoughtfully prepared. They were easy to understand and to follow, yet they provided a lot of valuable information.

Events and Webinars

Opportunities & Initiatives, Diversity & The Workplace, Environment & Innovation or Personal Development – those were the examples of Pagoda Events running during the time of my remote internship. All of them were extremely informative and really well prepared. I was able to ask both hosts and guests multiple questions and learn about topics that interest me.

Cultural Mentor

Even though we were almost the same age, the way we look at world is completely unique. And what is even more shocking, we were getting along incredibly well despite all the differences.

During my internship, I was paired with a cultural mentor from Taiwan.  His name is Oscar Liou and he is 24 years old. Every week we had an hour-long video chat discussing multiple topics about our cultures – Poland, UK, and Taiwan. It really shocked me how different our cultures were! Even though we were almost the same age, the way we look at world is completely unique. And what is even more shocking, we were getting along incredibly well despite all the differences. We elaborated on topics like Industries & Opportunities, Music & Arts, Dreams & Goals and Communication.

The inside view of National Taiwan Concert hall.

As you can see, we had a chance to talk about our cultures, our traditions and about our personal life. I really feel like I made a good friend during that period. We even experienced AN EARTHQUAKE during our last video call! I could hear and see it via WhatsApp and it was super intense. Fortunately, Oscar and his family were all safe! I managed to pick a few photos me and Oscar shared with each other.

Oscar’s cat.
Favourite coffee shop.

My experience

I could not be happier to be able to experience such a great opportunity. First of all, I learned a lot about myself. Every week I was smarter and more knowledgeable. I expanded my knowledge on multiple topics such as Asian culture, employability and marketing. I also grew as a person. I gained new skills and opened myself to new experiences. And the best part of it was that I made a new friend along the way.  

Taipei 101 – one of the tallest building in Asia.
Internship Experience, Participant Perspectives

My Pagoda Story – Jai Boucher

Would You Like To Take The Next Step With Us - Blog Writing Vector Clipart - Full Size Clipart (#4952498) - PinClipart

In the upcoming week, we’re featuring guest blogs from our very own Pagoda Participants. We want to highlight some students who have written about their experience in the Pagoda Projects Global Competencies programme. Here we have Jai Boucher, from Lancaster University, who finished up the Global Competencies programme just last week!


The Pagoda Projects programme has been valuable in better understanding the different types of places and cultures that exist in the world, how to best work in them, and what you can learn from them. The part I enjoyed most about the programme was the Cultural Fluency course. Other cultures around the world and how they differed from others wasn’t something that I had had much interest in or had given much thought. However, after learning about the different cultures that exist in the examples they showed us, that being Mexico, Vietnam and China, I can say that this course opened my eyes and sparked an interest in the topic.

Learning About China – One of the presentations we viewed
Learning about Different Cultures

It was interesting learning some of the radical differences that come with each culture. An example of this for me is the idea of “Face” that exists in Chinese and Vietnamese cultures. It was quite interesting to think about how I would be seen in and react to such a culture. It also made me reflect on my culture and how it has affected me. The other important part of this was also learning how to be less ignorant/stereotypical towards other cultures and how to be more accepting. The self-analysis and understanding of other cultures allowed me to grow on a more personal level.

The experience made me realise our environment has a much bigger role in our perspectives and peoples’ perspectives in general than I realised.
Having a Cultural Mentor

Another part of the Pagoda Projects I enjoyed was having a cultural mentor. Getting to know someone from a completely different country that I had never met before was quite enjoyable. We taught each other a lot about each other’s countries (hers being Mexico), what cultures are like there, how that had affected the way we see things etc. It was also interesting to talk about our goals and our values and how that was affected by our upbringing. The experience made me realise our environment has a much bigger role in our perspectives and peoples’ perspectives in general than I realised.

Here is a photo I shared with my cultural mentor.
Building Self-Development Skills

Aside from cultural fluency, the other digital skill courses, digital competency and employability, were also a great help in my self-development. They taught me skills such as how to better use my LinkedIn, what employers are looking for, online tools and resources for further learning/development, or just general use. All the digital courses provided great links to videos such as those made from TED talks and others which provided a greater in-depth understanding of the topic. Overall, the Pagoda Project programme has taught me things that I will consider and use, in both my personal and professional life.


Learning About Vietnam
Vietnam and Corona Virus
Daily Life in Vietnam, Participant Perspectives, Vietnam News, Vietnamese Culture

Surrounded by Masks

Surrounded by Masks: An update of what it feels like to live in Vietnam during the Corona Virus

The beginning of the new decade 2020 is off to a bumpy start, Australia is on fire, NBA legends have passed, the USA is in progress of a re-election, Hong Kong is demonstrating and the outbreak of a new deadly virus has taken over the media worldwide.

The Corona Virus (COVID-19) which originated in the city Wuhan, China is causing panic amongst nations around the world. The WHO expressed their concerns and advised people to take precautious measures like avoiding big gatherings, washing your hands and wearing a mask.

The virus has spread to most countries in the world by now and led to a movie-like display of people covering their faces, racist backlashes and an exaggeration my media outlets. In Vietnam 16 cases were reported of which zero have died and 100% have been cured successfully and released from quarantine. Nevertheless, schools have remained closed weeks after their official TED holiday during Chinese New Years. Even though it is a weird feeling to see so many people wearing masks around you the atmosphere in Saigon appears rather unaffected by the outbreak.

Many people have expressed their concerns in regards to travel to Vietnam as it is a labouring country to China but the world health organization has praised Vietnam for their successful measures and dealing with the situation. Officially there is no travel ban towards Vietnam and considering my experience on place that is justified. As of now, Vietnam has fewer cases than, Italy, Germany, Australia, Austria, Canada and most other affected countries. Although the virus is not to be taken too lightly it most likely won’t be affecting your travels in this wonderful country with all the beauty it has to offer.

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Reverse Culture Shock
Internship Experience, Internships Advice, Participant Perspectives

Reverse Culture Shock

Reverse Culture Shock

As my first group of interns prepare to return back to the UK, one topic of conversation that has been heavily discussed is reverse culture shock.  As someone who has travelled a fair amount, I am well acquainted with this confusing feeling.  However, compared to regular culture shock, the reverse feeling felt upon return to one’s home is rarely discussed.  This blog will explain the sensation and hopefully give you some tips on how to prepare and combat reverse culture shock.

So, what is reverse culture shock?

Reverse culture shock is pretty much exactly what it states on the tin; it’s a feeling of shock, isolation, or unfamiliarity when you return home after living abroad for a considerable period of time.  It can even sometimes be worse than culture shock felt when first experiencing life in a new place, because you assume that since you are returning somewhere full of family and friends the change will be easier to deal with.  However, a lot of people often explain this transition to be more difficult as they are returning to the same place, but not returning as the same person.  No one at home completely understands the journey you have been on, and you miss the people you shared that journey with.  People at home will often be interested in hearing tales from your time abroad right after your return, but they might become disinterested after a few days or weeks, and this can lead to feelings of frustration and isolation as no one understands the life you lived abroad.

Accept your feelings

Although you may feel down or upset for a period of time after your return, the most important thing is to understand why you are feeling that way.  Hopefully this blog will help you to understand this feeling and be aware of reverse culture shock, so if you do experience it you at least know what is happening.  There’s always so much focus on preparing to travel somewhere, but hardly ever preparation for returning home.  It always feels rushed and last minute as you try and pack in as much fun as possible in the last few days in your temporary home.  So, it’s easy to forget to remind yourself that you may find moving home more difficult than moving away.  But accept whatever feelings come, and don’t feel bad about feeling bad!  It’s totally normal and little can be done to prevent missing your time abroad, because let’s be honest, living everyday as an adventure is of course going to be more fun that the daily life you’re used to back home.  But you will slowly adjust back to life at home, and everyday will get easier, just don’t be surprised if sometimes you feel sad or lonely for a day or two.

Stay calm

A major factor which plays into reverse culture shock is often the fact that relatives and friends may not be as interested in hearing about your time abroad as you had hoped.  After a few days, they may grow tired of hearing you talk about your time away but try not to be frustrated or offended.  Try your best to put yourself in their position.  While you have been away discovering new food and making new friends, most people at home have been living their same daily lives and may not want to hear how good a time you have had compared to them.  In addition, it’s important to remember that the world at home did not stand still when you were away.  People change, situations change, and the place you return to may not feel exactly as it did when you initially left.  Be patient, and things will begin to feel normal again.

Stay connected

Thankfully today it is possible to stay in touch with people you met on your travels through the magic of social media. Ease of communication is one pro of the ever-evolving social media used constantly in today’s world. If you ever feel down or alone, give your friends from your internship or your travels a message on Facebook (or WeChat!) and see if they’re feeling the same way. It’s important to recognise that these feelings are totally normal, and most people will be going through the same confusing emotions, so talk about them, or just have a catch up and see how everyone is adapting to life back at home!

Keep busy

Similar to regular culture shock, one of the best ways to overcome reverse culture shock is keeping busy. Don’t let yourself spend days on end sitting in your room reminiscing about your time abroad, this will probably only make adjusting to life back at home even harder. Make plans with friends, cook dinner for your family, go for a run, start to learn a new language, basically anything that keeps your mind occupied and helps you keep developing! When you were abroad, you probably did your best to use your time wisely and fit as many activities in as possible. Take this mentality back home and live each day to it’s fullest. Is there somewhere nearby your hometown where you’ve never explored? Is there a museum exhibit on display nearby? Is there a coffee shop with great cake that you’ve not eaten in a while? Even though it may not be as exciting as living abroad in a brand-new environment, you can still find hidden gems in your own back garden, so go out and explore!

Plan the future!

From my personal experience, the best way to combat reverse culture shock is to plan something exciting in the near future.  For me, this is usually a short trip away from home.  I’m lucky to live in Europe where travel prices are relatively low, especially in winter, so planning spontaneous trips doesn’t need to break the bank.  However, if travel prices are too high, plan a day trip instead!  Or a party, a picnic, a sports game, a bike ride…  anything that you can look forward to and focus energy on planning, so you can look forward to new adventures rather than becoming sad reminiscing over memories of the past.

Hopefully this blog has helped you to learn about the reality of reverse culture shock and will help you to prepare for your return back home.

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