Coming Home from Study Abroad
Upon your return home, we encourage you to meet with a study abroad advisor. You can discuss your academic experience abroad, pending transfer credits, readjustment to Lang and the United States, and any other concerns. We have opportunities for you to keep your experiences abroad alive through events with other study abroad returnees. Many students return to the United States with more of a global perspective and a desire for international education, but also experience some reverse culture shock. This might include unexpected emotional highs and lows, unsettled feelings, ambivalence and frustration with your culture, and questioning your core values and beliefs. You don’t have to feel alone in processing your feelings. Support is always available through your advisor!
Return Culture Shock
Returning home from study abroad can be a challenging time, but also be a time when students learn the most from their intercultural experience. Re-entry can be understood as the often unexpected and sometimes difficult experience of readjusting to life in one's home culture after living abroad. Some study abroad returnees reacclimate with ease; however, most returnees experience some degree of stress upon returning home. In fact, for many students the process of readapting to home after study abroad is more difficult than adjusting to the host culture! The re-entry process is different for everyone, just as your experience abroad was unique. However, there are some common readjustment issues that study abroad students report.
• Personal Growth and Change. Students may have experienced a challenge to their beliefs, convictions, values and worldview while immersed in a different culture. They may have also experienced more academic freedom and personal independence while abroad, contributing to more self-confidence. Students have undoubtedly changed in numerous ways. One of the significant challenges of re-entry is having to adjust your "new" self to your "old" context. Some dislocations of identity are common for returnees to experience during this time.
• New Knowledge and Skills. Just as your attitudes changed while you were abroad, you probably developed new knowledge, skills, and behavior patterns. For example, you developed competencies that helped you survive everyday life overseas, such as learning to navigate new cities and environments, to act in a culturally appropriate manner, to converse about new subjects, and of course, foreign language skills. Other new competencies may include insights and knowledge about your academic interests, professional goals, new research methods, and enhanced problem-solving skills. Some returnees are frustrated if these skills feel less useful once home.
• Relationships with Family and Friends. Some study abroad returnees indicate the most complicated issue to deal with upon return is relationships with family and friends. It is important to realize that others might have changed as well while you were abroad. Many returnees describe feelings of incongruity, and some feel pressure from family and friends to conform to the person they were before study abroad. Perhaps the most difficult, and most common, aspect of this issue is describing your overseas experience to others. Beyond general inquiries and questions, friends and family may not appear interested in understanding your experiences and its impact.
Here are some helpful reminders for students returning from study abroad:
For more information about “reverse culture shock,” read more here.
Leveraging Your Experience Abroad Back on Campus
Students who return from abroad often express a desire to return to their host country. When you return from studying abroad though, don’t leave your experience behind. For instance, continue to follow news events related to where you studied, maintain contact with your friends abroad, read books and articles on topics about the host society and culture, or engage with civic or cultural organizations related to the host culture. In addition, coordinate study abroad reunions and share photos with others who studied abroad. Contribute to literary journals and student newspapers about the experience abroad, as well as blogs and other social media (such as the Correspondents’ Program). Opportunities to write about your time abroad are beneficial to you, but also for prospective study abroad students and other alumni of overseas programs. Recognize yourself as an interlocutor between cultures.
From an academic perspective, many students are able to draw upon study abroad experiences in course work, contribute to seminar discussions, and utilize what was learned abroad in papers or even a senior capstone. Register in courses related to your international location, for example. We also encourage you to enroll in further language studies and perhaps organize a language “table” (an informal group for students interested in improving language skills that practices weekly during lunch or dinner). You might likewise decide to pursue additional study abroad experiences, including international volunteer programs, internship opportunities, or post-graduate fellowships. Discuss particular interests with your academic advisor to help identify relevant options.
And remember to stay engaged with the Study Abroad Office. You might serve as an “ambassador” for the country where you studied with prospective students, participate in study abroad fairs, contribute to blogs or coordinate a photo exchange, for example. Your suggestions and ideas are always welcome as study abroad alumni! As with the study abroad experience itself, take responsibility for your reentry and make the most of it.
For information about student activities at Lang, visit www.newschool.edu/lang/student-activities/
Leveraging Your Experience Abroad After Graduation
As mentioned, study abroad experiences may also inspire students to explore further opportunities such as graduate programs abroad or in academic fields related to international, cultural or language studies. Students might also consider applying for prestigious fellowships or teaching assistantships such as a Fulbright, pursuing employment with an organization overseas, or a service-based program abroad, just to name a few of the many possible paths. The Career Development Office as well as the Study Abroad Office have resources available to help students explore possibilities, and can assist you throughout the process of deciding post-graduation plans. For more information specifically about fellowships, visit www.newschool.edu/lang/fellowships. For general information about future opportunities to work, teach, volunteer and/or travel abroad, refer to www.transitionsabroad.com/.
And remember to complete an online evaluation of your program at Abroad 101
Additional Resources on Returning Home
Sharing Your Study Abroad Experience