Returning to UNH
One of the biggest challenges for students who participate in study abroad can be the difficulty in re-adapting to the realities in the U.S. (otherwise known as ‘re-entry’). After all, when studying abroad, you went through many changes, re-examining your priorities, values, and what you think of yourself and the U.S. The ‘reverse culture shock’ may be more difficult than the ‘culture shock’ you may have felt when abroad.
So what is reverse culture shock?
First, let’s examine the process of re-entry. There are usually two elements that characterize a study abroad student’s re-entry:
- an idealized view of home
- the expectation of total familiarity (that nothing at home has changed while you have been away)
Often, students expect to be able to pick up exactly where they left off. A problem arises when reality doesn’t meet these expectations. Home may fall short of what you had envisioned, and things may have changed at home: your friends and family have their own lives and things have happened since you’ve been gone.
The inconsistency between expectations and reality, plus the lack of interest on the part of family and friends (nobody seems to really care about all of your "when I was abroad" stories) may result in frustration, feelings of alienation, and mutual misunderstandings between study abroad students and their friends and family. Luckily, you can overcome reverse culture shock-here are some ideas:
Get involved: become a Study Abroad Mentor!
One of the best ways to combat reverse culture shock is to get involved with international education, by encouraging other UNH students to study abroad. We are always looking for students who want to help us with the promotion of study abroad; whether it’s a CIE Info Table in the MUB, a classroom or a residence hall presentation. Study Abroad Mentors also assist CIE with the Pre-departure Orientation towards the end of each semester by answering students’ questions about the specific location that they are about to depart for. Mentors also assist with the annual Study Abroad Fair early Spring, where UNH Managed, Exchange and Approved programs are highlighted for the UNH community. Are you interested in becoming a Study Abroad Mentor? Great! Please contact Leonie Meijer in the CIE: Leo.Meijer@unh.edu or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get involved: join the UNH Travel Bugs!
Another great way to get involved is to join the student organization The Travel Bugs. The Travel Bugs describe themselves as “a group of students hoping to share study, cultural and travel abroad experiences while promoting cultural awareness through sharing photos, stories and travel advice.” For more info, please contact them on Facebook.
Study Abroad Evaluation
You spent plenty of time before you left reading study abroad student blogs and looking at photos of all these fantastic destinations. Now it’s your turn! Once you return to the U.S., CIE will send you a link to an online survey, asking you questions about your program, your experience and any tips you may have for future study abroad students.
We also hold a photo and video contest each semester, where you can share your experience visually (and win a prize!). We publicize the contest via e-mail and Facebook, and you can stop by our office in 223 Hood House for details. You can also see previous winners on CIE's Facebook page.
Post-Study Abroad Academics
After you begin to readjust to being back home, visit your academic advisor. Sometimes studying abroad will affect your academic focus within your major or even affect you to the point where you may decide to pursue a different major. This meeting with your academic advisor is a good time to discuss any changes that you might want to make. You should also check with your academic advisor to make sure that you are registered for all of the courses that you need for the upcoming semester and that you have filled out any financial aid or tuition forms that you will need for that year. Many returned study abroad students go on to do research abroad through the UNH International Research Opportunities Program or go overseas again on a post-baccalaureate fellowship.
New England Study Abroad Re-entry Conference
The annual New England study abroad re-entry conference provides an array of information to college and university students who have recently returned from a study abroad experience. Developed by a committee of volunteers in the study abroad field, the conference will offer sessions in adjusting to re-entry, becoming an advocate for study abroad, marketing your international experience, exploring careers in international fields, and finding opportunities to go abroad again.
If you are considering a career with an international component or looking for a job overseas, we also recommend that you visit your campus Career Center. The Career Center often provides various services for students seeking employment, and this is generally a good place to start looking for international job opportunities.
When you start looking for a job or career, think of the professional and personal growth you've undergone while overseas. If you can present these skills on your resume and in your interview(s) well, you can impress almost any employer.
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