Returning Home

Your trip has ended and you’re returning to Canada. What next?

Now you’re on your way back, what are some important things to keep in mind?

Before travelling:

  • Check for any requirements for transiting through other countries or for arriving back in Canada.
  • Confirm your flight and plan how to arrive at the airport on time. How early can you check in?
  • Ensure your luggage meets the weight and size requirements of your airline.
  • Double check what needs to be packed in checked or in carry-on luggage.
  • Check the customs regulations for re-entering Canada.
  • Prepare any course documents (e.g. course syllabi, assignments or tests, papers, etc) that may be useful in obtaining transfer credits – if they are heavy, consider shipping them or making electronic copies.

While travelling:

  • Ensure your passport and boarding pass are kept in a safe place, both before travelling and after.
  • Arrive early for your flight, allowing for the time to check in and go through security.
  • Monitor your luggage: try to keep one hand or leg on your luggage at all times, especially when you are distracted.

Before returning to Canada, you should also check the customs restrictions on what you can bring into Canada. In general, all food, plants, animals, and related products should be declared. The amount of alcohol or tobacco that you are allowed to bring back into Canada varies according to the amount of time you have been outside of the country.

If you are travelling with gifts, make sure they are not wrapped when travelling across the border, in case a border services officer needs to open and examine them.

Read more details about these customs restrictions for entering Canada, how to report goods, and preview the CBSA declaration card.

If it is your first time re-entering Canada from overseas, you may also want to review the steps you may take when returning to Canada.

Transiting – If you are transiting through another country on your way back to Canada, you should check whether you need to apply for a temporary visa or travel authorization. For example, the United States requires citizens of 38 Visa Waiver Program countries to apply for an ESTA even when transiting through US airports. While this rule does not apply to Canadians travelling on a Canadian passport, Canadian citizens travelling on another passport may be required to apply for an ESTA.

Visa Waiver Program countries | Applying for an ESTA

In other countries, you may only require a visa if your stay exceeds a certain amount of time. Make sure you check the rules in your transiting countries before you travel.

Entering Canada – The Canadian government has new rules for dual Canadian citizens. You can no longer travel to or transit through Canada by air with a non-Canadian passport. Even if you travel on your other passport to enter another country, you will still need a valid Canadian passport to board your flight back to Canada. Read more about travelling as a dual Canadian citizen.

If you are not travelling on a Canadian passport, you may need a visitor visa (temporary resident visa) or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to re-enter Canada.

Read more about travelling outside of Canada with a study-permit.

If you become sick while travelling, especially if you are travelling from a region with communicable diseases, you should tell a flight attendant or border services officer. They will decide if you need further medical assessment before entering Canada.

If you were sick while travelling, or become sick after returning to Canada, visit a health care provider and explain to them the countries you visited. You should inform the office of your travel when making the appointment, in case they need to make additional arrangements.

Read more about what to do if you get sick after travelling.

In general, do not accept others’ help in packing your suitcase for you. If others ask you to bring gifts back with you to Canada, make sure you know exactly what they are asking you to bring. Do not accept any wrapped packages. You don’t want to get into trouble for something you didn’t know about.

If you are bringing gifts back, make sure that they are not wrapped. If a border security officer has to check inside your suitcase for some reason, s/he will need to see inside your containers. Your beautifully wrapped present, unless it is translucent, may have to be unwrapped. Save time and effort and pack your gift wrapping supplies separately from your presents.

Make sure to check what can be packed in your checked or carry on luggage before your travel, to avoid any surprises at border security. If you are not sure, you can check the Transport Canada website for some tips (although rules may differ according to airlines and countries, so make sure to check with your airline for details).

Welcome back to Canada! We understand that returning to your home country after an extended stay abroad can be a challenging and transformative experience. You may find yourself grappling with feelings of alienation, restlessness, and frustration, which are all part of what’s known as reverse culture shock. 

You’ve safely arrived back from your international travel experience, but there are still some things that you should keep in mind:

  • Check that your basic health insurance hasn’t expired (e.g. OHIP). For OHIP, you can do this by checking with a Service Ontario Centre.
  • Make sure to file any health insurance related claims within the company’s deadlines.
  • Fill out any additional paperwork associated with your travel (e.g. transfer credits).
  • If you feel sick after returning to Canada, make sure to tell your health care provider that you have been travelling and go for a check-up.
  • Watch for signs of reverse culture adjustment or other negative feelings and reach out for support.

Contact if you have any concerns or questions about your travel or returning to Canada.

When back in Canada, you should check in with your health insurance situation.

If you incurred health related expenses while overseas, make sure that you submit the claims paperwork before the deadlines.

Check that your basic Canadian health insurance is still in place. If your provincial health insurance expired while you were overseas, you will need to apply to reactivate your coverage.

Ontario residents:

  • If you have been outside of Ontario for more than 212 days (approximately 6 months), check with Service Ontario that your OHIP is still valid.
  • If your OHIP has expired, you will need to re-apply for coverage.
  • If your OHIP is no longer valid, you will need to apply for UHIP coverage until your OHIP is reactivated. Bring the transaction record from Service Ontario and your T-card to the Centre for International Experience to apply.

More information about UHIP coverage during the OHIP waiting period.

After returning to Canada, you may feel different than before and perhaps experience feelings of alienation or restlessness. Reverse culture shock (also known as re-entry shock or re-acculturative stress) occurs when a place that felt familiar suddenly feels different or “off”.

Such feelings are usually strongest when the initial excitement of returning home subsides into normal life. You may experience physical, psychological, linguistic, socio-cultural, and environmental adjustments, including readjusting to the weather or just getting around at home. The process may range from a few weeks to a few months months, or even a year or longer, depending on the individual. 

You may experience a range of thoughts and emotions during your re-entry journey: 

  • “Life here is so boring!” – because your time overseas was filled with new experiences, returning to your old routines may leave you feeling restless and under-stimulated.
  • “Why can’t I do that here?” – your frustration and discomfort while returning to old routines may lead you to draw critical comparisons with your experiences overseas. This frustration and discomfort can also easily be transferred to others, making it more difficult to be patient and objective.
  • “Why do I feel so tired these days?” – on top of possible jet lag and exhaustion from travel itself, adjusting to your old routines, dealing with many demands on your time, and sorting out the logistics of re-entry, you may be feeling more tired than usual. Change of any kind always puts a strain on our minds and bodies, and changing between locations, especially between cultures, can be especially exhausting.
  • “I don’t want to stay here – I want to go back” – as you become less satisfied with your life in Canada, you might withdraw and dwell on thoughts of returning overseas. Because of this disillusionment and withdrawal, the process of reverse culture adjustment can often coincide with symptoms of depression.

If you begin to feel overwhelmed by these thoughts and frustrations, remember the University of Toronto is here to help.

Resources for Culture Shock:

Everybody’s reaction to returning to Canada is different. Explore and reflect on the below variables that may affect your re-acculturative stress and adjustment (the stress of re-adjusting to your home culture):

  • Voluntary vs involuntary re-entry – Are there any push or pull factors that make you decide to return home? It may be harder if you return home involuntarily. 
  • Expected vs unexpected re-entry – Is your travel home planned or unplanned? Your adjustment may be harder if your return is unexpected. 
  • Previous re-entry experience – Do you have the experience of returning home after living or travelling abroad before? The experience is harder if this is your first time returning home after living abroad. 
  • Length of the overseas stay – If you have stayed abroad for an extended period, the adjustment process may be harder. 
  • Degree of interaction with the overseas culture – How immersed were you in local cultures when you lived abroad? 
  • Amount of interaction with the home culture when studying abroad – How frequently did you stay in touch with your cultures and your support network at home when you were abroad? 
  • Degree of difference between the overseas and the home culture – The greater the difference, the more challenging the adjustment process is. 
  • The re-entry environment – How familiar are you with the home environment? Do you have a support network in place? 

You may want to start by reflecting on how you have changed or remained the same through your experiences abroad:

  • What are some similarities and differences between your home culture and the host culture in the aspects of communication/linguistics, physical environment, social mannerism, transportation, and food?
  • How has my personality, lifestyle, and/or routine changed with my time abroad?
  • Are my academic, career, and/or life goals the same as before I went abroad?
  • How has my time abroad influenced my perspectives on the community in my home culture and the host culture? 

While readjusting to your home environment and dealing with reverse culture shock, consider employing these two methods for well-being:

  1. Seek ways to assist others or contribute to your community. Reflect on your time abroad. You might have wished for advice from former exchange students – is there a way you can assist current international and exchange students in your home country? Explore your own city as if you were a traveler and gather information that could be useful for new students. See the Getting Involved tab for some suggestions.
  2. Acknowledge the changes within yourself. Your experiences abroad have shaped and transformed your perspectives and behaviours. While your friends and family might not immediately recognize these changes, you will likely be aware of them yourself. Recognize and embrace this personal evolution.

Resources for Culture Shock:


Storti, C. (2003). The Art of Coming Home. Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

The stress of returning to Canada can often be just as overwhelming as travelling to a new country.

If you continue to have feelings of frustration or begin to feel depressed, don’t forget that you can access University of Toronto resources. Reach out to the Centre for International Experience to connect with other exchange students and support each other, or connect with 24/7 support through the following resources:

Find more support for your well-being by chatting with Navi:


Travel should be a fun experience, even if it is stressful at times, but if you are ever feeling overly stressed, don’t hesitate to share your frustrations with others and relieve the pressure.

Let’s talk.

We are always here to listen.

Would you like to get more involved in the international community in Toronto?

The Centre for International Experience (CIE) has many programs meant to provide support to exchange and international students, including students returning from travel overseas.

For example, St George students can join bi-weekly Learning Abroad Student Socials, for those interested in making global connections, meeting former CIE exchange students, and developing global competencies.

Below is a list of programs & events that may interest you (more can be found via the CIE’s Programs & Events page):

Your experience abroad may also be eligible as one of the Global Experience activities for the Global Citizen Program. Complete the program to receive a certificate of completion.

The U of T campus is a diverse and vibrant one, and student clubs reflect this diversity. Getting involved in a club may help you become more involved in activities related to the experiences you had while travelling.

Are you interested in a new language or culture? Do you want to continue with a cultural activity that you participated in overseas?

Then you might want to take a look at the list of clubs available on the the Student Organization Portal. Don’t forget you can search from a list of keywords!

There are clubs on campus for Japanese language learning, Mahjong, Latin dance, and Slavic languages, to mention just a few.

The longer you travel, the more stories you will accumulate. However, after a while people can seem bored of hearing of your experiences, and while you have a wealth of stories to share, you may have difficulties finding an audience. In part, this can be because your audience has difficulty connecting with or relating to your experience.

You can try to reduce the amount you speak about your travels to accommodate this kind of reaction, but remember, the experiences are now a part of your frame of reference – you don’t have to stop talking about them. If your friends and family seem upset, they may be this way because they didn’t have the chance to experience your travels with you. In these cases, it might be a good idea to spend some time recalling what you have done together and helping them realize that although you left, you are back and want to spend time with them.

If you are bursting with stories to tell and lacking an audience, why not try sharing them with a wider audience?

Create a blog, vlog, or journal – not only can you share your experiences with others, but you might also be able to use it as a demonstration of your writing and design skills when you are applying for a job.

Try writing for others – many travel sites and blogs look for contributions from travellers, especially those who can offer tips and tricks for other travellers or who have had interesting experiences.

You can also try sharing your photographs! The Centre for International Experience holds an Annual Photo Contest for pictures documenting the experiences of international and exchange students. UTM’s International Education Centre (IEC) also holds a travel photography competition, and the more you look, the more opportunities you may find.

In short, find an audience that would like to listen! Outgoing exchange students or other travellers will likely want to hear your tips for travelling. Inbound students or visitors to Toronto may want to hear about how things differ between their home cultures and Canada. There is always someone who is curious about your experiences.

Did you enjoy your experience overseas?

If you did, then why not consider participating in another international experience and exploring another destination!

The Learning Abroad website is constantly being updated with new opportunities, from internships, to research positions, to exchange programs, some of which are fully funded. Depending on the program, you could be overseas for a few weeks, for the summer, or for the entire year!

Just don’t forget to consider your Safety Abroad!