Life After Study Abroad
Dear Study Abroad Returnee:
Welcome back to the United States! We hope your semester or year abroad was everything you hoped it would be. The Study Abroad Office is here to help you however possible with your readjustment to life in the U.S. As you may have noticed, being back can be as challenging as your first few days and weeks in your host country!
Here is some information to help you:
Your next concern is probably regarding the transfer of your credit earned abroad. Once we have received the transcript from your host university, we will process it and send your grades to the Registrar to be recorded on your transcript. To speed up the process, please:
- If you took courses that were not pre-approved, stop by the Study Abroad Office to pick up a green sheet. Then have the appropriate department approve the course(s) and assign UMSL equivalent course number(s).
- Make sure we have your correct email address. If there are any questions, we will email you your grade report to review before we submit it to the Registrar.
- Request that your host university or program provider send your transcript directly to:
Study Abroad Coordinator
Study Abroad Office
261 MSC (MC 221)
1 University Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63121
We would enjoy the opportunity to speak with you about your experience. Please stop by the Study Abroad Office when you're back on campus; we can't wait to hear your stories and see your pictures.
See you soon!
The Study Abroad Team
Preparing to Return Home: Quick Tips
By Dr. Bruce LaBrack
Reentry into your home culture can be both challenging and as frustrating as living overseas, mostly because our attitude toward going "home" is that it should be a simple matter of getting resettled, resuming your earlier routines, and reestablishing your relationships. However, world wide reentry has its own set of special social and psychological adjustments which can be facilitated by being aware of the reentry process and following some advice from those who have already returned.
The following list is compiled from many sources, but all of the tips come from returnees who offer these ideas in the hope of making your reentry easier for you and for those at home.
1. Prepare for an adjustment process.
The more you consider your alternatives, think about what is to come, and know about how returning home is both similar to and different from going abroad, the easier the transition will be. Anticipating is useful. As one psychologist put it, "Worrying helps."
2. Allow yourself time.
Reentry is a process that will take time, just like adjusting to a new foreign culture. Give yourself time to relax and reflect upon what is going on around you, how you are reacting to it, and what you might like to change. Give yourself permission to ease into the transition.
3. Understand that the familiar will seem different.
You will have changed, home has changed, and you will be seeing familiar people, places, and behaviors from new perspectives. Some things will seem strange, perhaps even unsettling. Expect to have some new emotional and psychological reactions to being home. Everyone does.
4. There will be much "cultural catching up" to do.
Some linguistic, social, political, economic, entertainment and current event topics will be unfamiliar to you as new programs, slang, and even governmental forms may have emerged since you left. You may have some learning to do about your own culture. (Note: most returnees report that major insights into themselves and their home countries occur during reentry).
5. Reserve judgements.
Just as you had to keep an open mind when first encountering the culture of a new foreign country, try to resist the natural impulse to make snap decisions and judgements about people and behaviors once back home. Mood swings are common at first and your most valuable and valid analysis of events is likely to take place after allowing sometime for thorough reflection.
6. Respond thoughtfully and slowly.
Quick answers and impulsive reactions often characterize returnees. Frustration, disorientation, and boredom in the returnee can lead to behavior that is incomprehensible to family and friends. Take some time to rehearse what you want to say and how you will respond to predictable questions and situations; prepare to greet those that are less predictable with a calm, thoughtful approach.
7. Cultivate sensibility.
Showing an interest in what others have been doing while you have been on your adventure overseas is the surest way to reestablish rapport. Much frustration in returnees stems from what is perceived as disinterest by others in their experience and lack of opportunity to express their feelings and tell their stories. Being as a good a listener as a talker is a key ingredient in mutual sharing.
8. Beware of comparisons.
Making comparisons between cultures and nations is natural, particularly after residence abroad; however, a person must be careful not to be seen as too critical of home or too lavish in praise of things foreign. A balance of good and bad features is probably more accurate and certainly less threatening to others. The tendency to be an "instant expert" is to be avoided at all costs.
9. Remain flexible.
Keeping as many options open as possible is an essential aspect of a successful return home. Attempting to re-socialize totally into old patterns and networks can be difficult, but remaining aloof is isolating and counterproductive. What you want to achieve is a balance between maintaining earlier patterns and enhancing your social and intellectual life with new friends and interests.
10. Seek support networks.
There are lots of people back home who have gone through their own reentry and understand a returnees concerns - academic faculty, exchange students, international development staff, diplomatic corps, military personnel, church officials, and businessmen and women. University study-abroad and foreign student offices are just a few of the places where returnees can seek others who can offer support and country-specific advice.
Compiled by Dr. Bruce LaBrack. School of International Studies, University of the Pacific for use by the Institute of International Education, San Francisco. Aspire Newsletter.
Re-Entry Adjustment or Reverse Culture Shock
Returning to the US after an extended stay abroad can be as challenging as your initial days in your host country. Most returnees experience a form of "reverse culture shock," where customs, habits, and people in the US don't make as much sense as they did in your host country. Reverse culture shock consists of feeling out of place in your own country, or experiencing a sense of disorientation. While everything is familiar, you feel different. You may have felt even walking through the airport and hearing American English spoken was a very surreal experience.
You've grown, changed, met people, and experienced things and places that your friends and family have not. You've adjusted to a foreign culture, made new friends, and probably consider your host country as a home. For months, you've been the foreigner, someone that people notice and are curious to meet. Now you're back at UMSL, and you're probably finding that classes and daily life are not quite as exciting as in England, Japan, Mexico, etc. Your friends may tire of your photographs and stories of "When I was in X…" Perhaps you want nothing more than to return to your host country, or maybe your glad to be back. Either way, you have changed and your experiences will always remain with you.
It's important to take time to readjust to life in the US and learn to incorporate your newfound passions, ideas, and beliefs into your daily life.
Some of these strategies may help with readjusting:
- Give yourself time to readjust, relearn, and readapt to your life in the U.S.
- Recognize personal growth and identify positive changes by journal writing, submitting articles and photos to contests, joining community and/or student groups, and volunteering with internationally-minded organizations.
- Seek out other returnees to share experiences and talk about your readjustment.
- Become friends with a new international student. Get to know the international students in your classes.
- Incorporate your experiences gained abroad into your academic work by through papers, presentations, and research projects.
- Keep up your language skills! Continue to take language courses, meet international students, and keep in touch with the friends you made abroad.
- Volunteer to tutor immigrants and refugees.
- Continue a habit you gained while abroad, such as chatting with friends at a coffee shop, afternoon tea, walks through the park, etc.
- Participate in the International Photo Contest, Study Abroad Fair, and Study Abroad Panels
- Research opportunities to study or work abroad after graduation. Here is a starting point.
- Stop by the Study Abroad Office in 261 MSC to discuss your experiences abroad, readjustment in the US, and any concerns you may have. We're here to help you!
Marketing Your International Experience to Employers
POSSIBLE OUTCOMES OF AN INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE
This list provides a handy reference of skills you may have developed as a direct result of your experiences abroad. Use this to spark ideas for creating a resume, preparing for an interview and reflecting upon your experiences.
Understand cultural differences and similarities
Adapt to new environments
Learn through listening and observing
Establish rapport quickly
Functions with a high level of ambiguity
Take initiative and risks
Utilize time management skills
Identify problems and utilize available resources to solve the problem
Communicate despite barriers
Handle difficult situations
Lead others in formal/informal groups
Conduct research despite language and cultural differences
Cope with rejection
High energy level/enthusiasm
Appreciation of diversity
From "Reentry Resource Packet," James L, Citron, Vija G. Mendelson
Click here for specific resume and interview tips for incorporating your international experience.