You Just Returned From Volunteering Abroad… Now What?

Mark Horoszowski

Mark Horoszowski is the co-founder and CEO of

the reality of reverse culture shockWhen you return home from any extensive international trip, it’s normal to feel new emotions like loneliness, boredom, and even ‘Reverse Culture Shock’. It’s also normal to have a desire to return overseas, go on other trips, and finds ways to continue volunteering at home.

The more immersive trip, the more powerful the emotions.

Culture Shock Roller Coaster
According to Marquette University:

Reverse culture shock is simply a common reaction to returning home from [being] abroad. It is an emotional and psychological stage of re-adjustment, similar to your initial adjustment to living abroad. Symptoms can range from feeling like no one understands you or how you’ve changed to feeling panicked that you will lose part of your identity if you don’t have an outlet to pursue new interests that were sparked abroad. Your reactions to re-entry may vary, but common signs are:

  • Restlessness
  • Rootlessness
  • Boredom
  • Depression
  • Uncertainty
  • Confusion
  • Isolation
  • Wanting to be alone
  • “Reverse homesickness”

These feeling are especially common on meaningful volunteer projects abroad, which we call Experteering.

We find that it’s important to recognize these emotions, and harness them for personal learning and growth. Used the right way, they can make you and the people around you better.

To help Experteers deal with reverse culture shock and transition back into a meaningful life back home, we’re excited to announce four new resources:

1. A process to help you cope with (and learn from) reverse culture shock

To recover from your trip and harness that internal drive to keep your experience alive, use our guide: What Now? The Post Experteering Re-integration Guide. It has two valuable sections:

  1. Navigating Change, which has resources to help you understand and cope with emotions you experience after your trip
  2. Tips for Figuring Out What Next, which has ideas about how you can use your experience to affect more change upon your return


2. A template to turn your international experience into a transformational growth experience

Experteering can teach you valuable skills, provided you take the time to recognize it. The best way to do that? Reflect! To help you instill the valuable things you’ve learned, follow this guided reflection process: Post Experteering Reflection Template.

As Peter Drucker famously said: “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action. 


3. Guides to help you keep growing as a leader

Perhaps more than any degree, in-job experience, or certification, Experteering is one of the most valuable ways to develop innovation and leadership skills. Why? Because if it forces you to work with others in a new environment, alongside diverse cultures, and with intimate exposure to new ways of doing things — the combination of which create an unforgettable learning experience: Research proves it.

In addition to going through a formal reflection process (mentioned above), our Global Leadership Handbook can help you think about the skills you just learned, and give you plenty of extra resources to keep learning.

Hungry for more? Take our free TED Talk MBA.


4. A toolkit to help you keep creating change when you return

Our Complete Guide to Social Intrapreneurship gives you a process and extra tools to help you create change at your company, in your school, and/or in your community. Anybody can be a social intrapreneur, and this guide shows you how.


These guides have been released as part of our ongoing effort to improve the impact of all Experteering projects, even after they finish. We work with university and corporate partners to further customize these for specific learning objectives, but if you’re going on your own, they are great (and free) tools to empower you to be the change you wish to see in the world.