International Student Support

Preparing to return home

For those of you whose time at Sussex will soon be over, now is the time to start making preparations for your return home. If you think back to the months before coming to Sussex you will probably remember that you spent a good deal of time making preparations for your journey and thinking about what life in the UK and at Sussex would be like. Just as much thought now needs to be given to your return home - the sooner you start your preparations the better. We hope this article will remind you of some practical things that you need to consider, and give you advice on readjusting to life in your country.

Practical matters

Travel arrangements and sending possessions homearriving

If you have not already done so, you should book your return journey as soon as possible. Check the options and costs with different airlines to make sure you get the most suitable route and a good price. Also ensure that you have adequate travel insurance.

You will probably have acquired lots of additional possessions during your stay in the UK. You will need to decide whether to take them all back with you or leave some items, such as books and clothes behind. If you are travelling by plane you will be charged for excess baggage. An alternative if you have a lot of belongings would be to use a shipping agent to ship some of your possessions home. We have a small selection of leaflets from shipping companies available at our International Student Support office in Bramber House, or you can ask friends for suggestions.


Income Tax refund

If you are working in the UK and paying income tax, you may be entitled to have some of that tax refunded to you. See the HM Revenue & Customs website Claiming a tax refund when you stop work page for details on how to claim an income tax refund and the Claiming back overpaid National Insurance contributions page for National Insurance refunds.

VAT refunds

You might be entitled to a refund of Value Added Tax (VAT) on certain goods that you bought in the UK, but only if you are taking them outside the European Economic Area (EEA) within 3 months of the end of the month in which you purchased them. You can find more information about the scheme at VAT refunds for visitors to the UK on the HM Revenue & Customs website.

Cancel your direct debits and standing orders

Make sure you cancel any direct debits and standing orders from your bank account for any memberships and subscriptions which you will no longer require.

Notification of your departure

There are a number of offices and organisations that you need to tell that you will be leaving (for most this must be done about a month before you leave):

  • doctor and dentist
  • the Housing Office or your landlord
  • bank
  • electricity, gas, water, telephone companies (if you are paying for these services in your name)
  • Council Tax office
  • Your employer (if you have a part-time job)

You should aim to settle any debts or overdrafts before you leave, including money you owe to the University - your qualification or transcript will be withheld if you have outstanding debts.

Your future career

If you intend to start work when you return home but are still uncertain about your career path or have not yet secured a job, you can obtain information and advice from the Careers and Employability Centre website or visit them in the Library.

Readjusting to life after Sussex (or "reverse culture shock")

When you came to Sussex it might have taken you some time to get used to some aspects of life in the UK. You might be surprised to learn that returning home can also pose unexpected challenges. You will have changed while you have been away, and life back home will not have stood still. How you react to the process of readjustment will depend on many things, such as how long you spent in the UK, and your age. Below is a summary of the main areas in which students may encounter difficulties when returning home, followed by suggestions to help you prepare to tackle them.

Family and friends

"I know who I am, but that is not completely the same as the way my family view me. Now that the time for going home is coming closer I know I must take time to get my thoughts in order, so that when I arrive home I do not say things that will shock people".

Students report that some adjustment is involved both for themselves and their families when they return home. Although you may have developed new ideas and customs while you have been away, your friends and family may expect you to be exactly the same as when you left them. They will also be interested to hear about your experiences, but their attention span will probably be limited. Your family and friends will also have changed during your absence. These events can make it more difficult for you to readjust to life at home.

Customs and ideas

During your stay in the UK you might have become accustomed to different customs and ideas. You may therefore find that you have to readjust in some of the following areas when you go home:

  • expression of opinions
  • timekeeping
  • preparing and serving food
  • methods of studying
  • the way women and men are expected to behave
  • bureaucratic procedures

Economic and political conditions

If you have been in the UK for several years, there will undoubtedly have been some changes in the economic and political conditions in your home country. There might be a new government, new regulations, there might be fewer or more opportunities to gain employment. Reflect on what has happened during your absence and how these might affect your attitudes when you return.


If you are returning to a former job in your country there may be changes that you had not expected. You may not find it easy to employ the skills and knowledge you have acquired; your fellow workers might be suspicious or envious of your new knowledge and abilities or have unrealistic expectations of what you can do.

Tips on helping you readjust

Most students soon adapt to their home culture without difficulty, but if you do experience any of the problems mentioned above, the following suggestions will help you to readjust.

  • Be aware that "reverse culture shock" is a common reaction
  • Share with your family and friends about this phase in your life
  • Build on the skills of adaptation that you have developed in the UK
  • Keep in touch with the friends you made in the UK and with the University through the Alumni Network
  • Share your experiences with other students who have returned from the UK
  • Think about the future, and about the next challenge or goal that you wish to achieve.

Advice from a returnee:

"Don't be surprised - it will take time to readjust, but you'll feel 'at home' again in time. Don't expect to view/see people or things as you did when you left. Try to look for the positive things in returning home, not the negative".

International Student Support

T +44 (0)1273 67 8422