Welcome back! You have returned from a study, internship or volunteer program and may be wondering, “What now?” Your international experience does not have to end with the plane ride back to the States—there are many ways to get involved on your home campus, share your experience with others, and pursue new international opportunities in the future. Review the information on this page about re-entry and reverse culture shock, staying connected, and resources available to returnee participants.
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People who have lived abroad often find that the adjustment to returning home is more difficult than their adjustment to the foreign culture. Why? Expectations play a major role. We expect to have some difficulty when we go to a new place, speak a different language and learn the rules of a different culture . . . But home?
While you may know your home, you may not realize how much you have changed after being gone. In adjusting to life in a new culture, your perceptions, habits, and maybe even values have changed, perhaps without your awareness, to fit in with the cultural context of your host country. At the same time, you've probably carried around in your head a wonderful mental picture of your home environment. All of a sudden, when you get home, reality just doesn't measure up to that picture.
This is a common occurrence, and the best way of addressing it is simply to be aware of the source of your negative feelings. Be assured that in time, you will be able to incorporate an appreciation for the positive aspects of each culture at home as well as abroad.
Family members and friends are often surprised by the behavior of returnees. Their expectation is that the same person who boarded the airplane one year ago will be returning. Especially if they have never been abroad, your parents and friends probably don't understand the magnitude of the study abroad experience and the changes it will cause in a person. By the same token, you may have maintained an ideal mental image of your loved ones while abroad, an image that is shattered when you return and see them "warts and all."
Remember the different lifestyle you have been leading. If you had a host family, you may have become accustomed not only to their lifestyle, but their values and norms as well, which are probably different from those of your own family. Whether or not you lived with a host family, you have probably become very independent, structuring your life just as you wished. Now that you're home again, you will be expected to conform again to the lifestyle of your family, giving up some of that freedom. As a result, you may interpret your parents' involvement in your life as overprotective and restrictive.
Communication is the key to overcoming this problem. Tell your parents how you are feeling. Share with them information about cultural re-entry, and ask them to be patient. They will be eager to help you and will wait for you to adjust. This does not mean that you have to renounce your experience and give up everything you've learned! Learn to strike a balance between the old and new, just as you did when first adjusting to your host country's culture.
Good friends should also be willing to understand that you have gone through some changes, and that coming home presents some difficulties for you. However, you may find that you have grown apart from some friends, that you no longer have the same interests, or that your old friends don't meet the needs that you have. It may become necessary to find new friends. Seek out other students who have studied abroad. They will be able to relate to your experience and provide you with the support you need to get through re-entry.
Don't be offended if your friends don't appear very enthusiastic about your stories. You are speaking of people and places with which they have no connection. There is also the possibility that some people might be jealous of the opportunity that you have had, and they might think that you are bragging or "showing off." Also remember that time didn't stop while you were gone. Life went on and there are issues with which your friends are concerned that have nothing to do with your time abroad, but which are as important to them as your experience is to you.
When asked about your time abroad, keep your stories brief and general. Avoid going into too much detail about the people you met or about complicated issues which people who haven't been to the country would know nothing about. Avoid excessive comparisons between the U.S.A. and your host culture. Arrange your photos and slides so that people can get a good overall idea of your experience and show them if asked.
One suggestion is to find a more receptive audience. Visit your study abroad office and International Center and talk to the staff. They're always interested in hearing about the experiences of students abroad. Take advantage of opportunities to meet other study abroad alumni. They are generally more interested and more capable of understanding your experiences than people who stayed home, and will also be looking for someone with whom to share their stories. Working as an IEP returnee to giving presentations in language classes, there are numerous ways for you to share your experience with others.
*The text in this section was taken from the International Center at the University of Missouri, Columbia.
Your home campus and community provide many opportunities for you to continue having an international experience right here in the United States.
Whether you are interested in foreign diplomacy and politics, international education, graduate study or research abroad, volunteerism, or a part time work program in another country, the following information will help you get started.
A study, internship or volunteer program not only provided you with international experience, but you have also gained new skills that potential employers look for in job candidates. Some campuses even hold special workshops for students who wish to learn more about internationalizing their profile during the job search! Visit your career center and study abroad office for more specific details and advice about where and how to include and feature these new skills and experiences on a résumé, cover letter, and in the interview.
Visit Volunteer Abroad to browse opportunities all over the world.
The Peace Corps
The Peace Corps traces its roots and mission to 1960, when then Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries. From that inspiration grew an agency of the federal government devoted to world peace and friendship.
VolunteerAbroad.com has advanced search tools and Online Advisors that will help you find, among over 3,000 volunteer programs, the perfect international volunteer program based on country of interest, type of volunteer work, and duration.
Become a Peer Advisor on your Home Campus!
Many colleges and universities have paid student peer advisor positions at the study abroad or international office. In fact, many people get their start in a career in international education this way! Contact your study abroad office to see if this opportunity may be available to you.
The US state Department is the lead U.S. foreign affairs policy
United for a Better World, The peace keepers of the world
JobsAbroad.com lists international job opportunities with search tools for country of interest and specific type of job.
TeachAbroad.com is a comprehensive directory of international teaching positions. Searching for the most suitable overseas teaching job is made easy with the country search tool, freshest teaching job posts, and teach abroad resources.
Critical Language Scholarships
Critical Language Scholarships for Intensive Summer Institutes are part of a U.S. government interagency effort to expand dramatically the number of Americans studying and mastering critical need foreign languages. Scholarship recipients - U.S. citizen undergraduate, Master's and Ph.D. students and recent graduates - receive funding to participate in beginning, intermediate and advanced level summer language programs at American Overseas Research Centers and affiliated partners.
Rotary International's programs for students and youth can change the lives of those who participate. Through these programs, young people can earn scholarships, travel on cultural exchanges, or help a community through a service project.
The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by then Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State. The Fulbright provides grants for study, research and teaching work abroad.
The Rhodes Scholarships, the oldest international fellowships, were initiated after the death of Cecil Rhodes in 1902, and bring outstanding students from many countries around the world to the University of Oxford. American Rhodes Scholars are selected through a decentralized process by which regional selection committees choose 32 Scholars each year from among those nominated by selection committees in each of the fifty states. In most years, a Rhodes Scholar is selected from an institution which has not formerly supplied a successful applicant.
George J. Mitchell Scholarship
The George J. Mitchell Scholarship is a national competitive fellowship sponsored by the US-Ireland Alliance. Twelve Mitchell Scholars between the ages of 18 and 30 are chosen annually for one year of postgraduate study in any discipline offered by institutions of higher learning in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Applicants are judged on three criteria: academic excellence, leadership, and a sustained commitment to service and community.
The ASF's award program for study and research abroad has been the Foundation's most long-standing commitment to educational exchange. During the past 94 years, over 3,800 fellowships and grants have been given to Americans and Scandinavians engaged in study or research projects.
Blakemore Freeman Fellowships
Since 1990, the Foundation has awarded over $11.2 million in language grants. Blakemore Freeman Fellowships fund a year of advanced study of an Asian language in Asia for American citizens and permanent residents of the United States who have a college degree and who plan to use an Asian language in their careers.
DAAD grants for study and research in Germany are available to faculty and students in Canada and the United States. Scholars participate in a wide variety of academic activities to promote international academic relations and cooperation. Application deadlines vary.
Scotland-USA Graduate Study Scholarship
The Scotland-USA Graduate Study Scholarship is open to US Nationals and is aimed at encouraging bright, talented and hard working individuals to live, work and study in Scotland. Awards are available for full time graduate study at Scotland's universities or higher education institutions listed. Courses must be masters programs, and can be either taught or research. The scholarship is a total of £2000 (British pounds)
An IEP Ambassador is any student who would like to share their study, internship or volunteer experience with other students on their home campus. This is a great résumé builder as well as a way to continue your international experience after completing an IEP program.
Most colleges and universities hold a fall and/or spring study abroad fair. IEP would love for you, our alumni, to join the IEP staff member at the study abroad fair to talk about the program you participated in with interested students as well as answer questions about your experiences in traveling and going abroad.
Become a JU Ambassador and share your experience with the )U student body. Earn $300 towards your next adventure abroad by working with the study abroad office for a semester. Your responsibilities would include 10 classroom visits, 10 hours working in the office, and attendance at the OU study abroad fair.
Contact IEP to find out how you can get started!
An official transcript will be sent free of charge upon completion of the program to the office or department that the student designates on his or her Emergency Contact form. Depending on the program, processing a transcript can take anywhere from 6-8 weeks.
Want the chance to have your photos displayed on our website or in our catalog? Enter our Photo contest and you could win $50!
Send a high-quality (at least 3 Mega Pixels or 1050x1500 pixels) digital photo with a description of what the picture is and where it was taken to firstname.lastname@example.org and write “Photo Contest” in the subject line. Please include your school, year, and current mailing address and phone number in your submission email. Members of the IEP team will select 3 winners annually and contact the winner by email.
Photo subjects can include: Nature and landscapes, Culture, Customs, Traditions, Daily life unique to your location, Iconic images, Monuments or places of interest, Architecture, or Other.
In submitting a photo in the IEP photo contest, the applicant gives IEP the right to use the photo(s) for the website or printed materials.