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Study Abroad

The University of Scranton Study Abroad Program

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Returning From Abroad

Congratulations on nearly completing your sojourn from abroad! Believe it or not, there are several things you need to be thinking about right now. As you prepare to to return home, the International Programs and Services Office would like to consider the following:
 
Transcripts
You are strongly encouraged to touch bases with the director of your study abroad program or international student/study abroad office at your university and make sure that it is understood that you need to have an official transcript send to the International Programs and Services Office. The transcript needs to be sent to: 
Father Sivalon
Director, Study Abroad & Global Initiatives
St. Thomas Hall 5110
The University of Scranton
Scranton, PA 18510
The credits you earn abroad will not be posted to your University of Scranton record without and official transcript.
 
Resume
While your experiences are still very fresh in your mind, consider jotting down some important aspects of your time abroad for inclusion in your resume and or job search, graduate and professional school cover letters. Start working on your resume upon your return to the United States and as soon as possible start working with the Career Services Office at the University of Scranton.
 
When Home is Not So Sweet - Reverse Culture Shock
Students often expect that they will be able to pick up where they left off when returning home. However, just as you have changed, so have your family and friends. This makes home seem foreign and you may find yourself disappointed when home is not what you expected or remembered. Theorists have identified this transition as "re-entry shock" or "reverse culture-shock." Re-entry shock is a term used to describe the difficulties one faces when returning to one's home country after spending a significant period of time abroad.
 
Several studies suggest that it is often more difficult to readjust to returning home than it is to adjust to the culture abroad (Huff, 2001; Sussman, 2010). This is particularly true of cultures that greatly differ from one another. For instance, an American who studies in China is expected to have greater re-entry shock that an American who studies in England. Aside from geographic factors, there will be other factors such as age, gender, socio-economic status, religion and other aspects that make your transition home unique from the experiences of fellow study abroad students.
 
You should know that re-entry shock is a very normal and common occurrence for returning study abroad students. In fact, it is estimated that about 70% of returning study abroad students are affected (Szulardek, 2010). The best way to prevent re-entry shock is to prepare yourself for what to expect before returning home. Although re-entry shock is typically seen as a negative consequence of returning home, it also has the potential to be a very positive experience which will help you grow personally. In fact the ability to reconcile your experience of being in two different cultures can enhance your identity and view of the world.

Strategies for Dealing with Re-Entry Shock
1. Write a journal or a blog: One of the fears that study abroad students have is that they will forget their experiences abroad. Keep a journal or create an online blog to share with your friends.
 
2. Stay positive: Although returning home may be a challenge, try to maintain a positive attitude and view your experience both abroad and returning from abroad as part of a valuable experience that will help you grow.
 
3. Keep in touch: Keeping in touch with your friends from abroad will help you readjust to being back home. Email, web cams chats and social networking are all great ways to stay connected. It is also important to stay in touch with other students who have studied abroad. Relationships with fellow returnees will allow you to reflect on your experience together and discuss the challenges of returning home.
 
4. Find opportunities to share your experiences: Volunteer with the International Programs and Services Office to help provide "expert" insight on studying abroad, volunteer to write a story/column in the student newspaper, volunteer to talk about your experiences in the Residence Halls.
 
5. Use the skills you learned abroad: You have learned many coping strategies during while studying abroad - now apply those skills for your successful transition to life back at home.
 
6. Take care of yourself: Returning home can be stressful. Make time to relax and have fun. Be sure to exercise and maintain a healthy diet. Doing little things for yourself can make a big difference in how you feel. 
 
7. Continue your study abroad experience at home: Try to develop contacts with people from your former host country (the International Programs and Services Office is a good place to start). Subscribe to host country magazines and watch movies from your host culture. Listen to web radio broadcasts from your host culture. Find opportunities to participate in the cultural events of your host culture in the United States.
 
8. You're not the only one: Know that most students who return from studying abroad will have to face some challenges after returning home. Recognize that re-entry shock is a normal experience. Think about attending a re-entry workshop and/or meeting with a counselor when you return. 
 
9. Signs of re-entry shock Upon returning to the United States:
a. I feel like people are not interested in hearing my story.
b. I am bored with the dullness of being home.
c. I wish I could go back to where I studied abroad.
d. I feel lonely and alienated from my peers.
e. My relationships with my friends and family have changed.
f.  People mention to me that they have seen some changes in my behavior.
g. I find it difficult to to explain my experiences to those who haven't had them.
h. I worry that I will forget my experiences abroad.
i. I find it difficult to communicate with others.
j. I find myself sleeping more than usual.
k. I find myself disliking American culture.
l. I find it difficult to relate to others.
If you feel that you need help in dealing with your feelings, do not hesitate to speak with someone in the International Programs Office, The University Counseling Center or Campus Ministries. We are all here to help you.