As I begin to prepare myself for the fall semester, this means a few things on an international campus. For starters, many of my students will be departing and returning back to Japan. For many of us who work in international education, our relationship can end with these students once they board the plane home. However, the transition back home from a study abroad experience can be quite challenging and difficult for our students.
Here are some things to consider as your students plan to return home:
1. Culture Shock Revisited – It’s exciting to return home and see your family and friends. Some students struggle with the return home and need some preparation. Re-entry can bring about feelings of alienation and they may be uncertain about how to integrate their study abroad experiences back home. Students may return home and things may seem different, and some changes may be quite notable compared to others. Help your students by acknowledging this transition as an expected part of returning home from their study abroad experience. Offer advice as they plan to return home and help through the readjustment period. There are others experiencing the same transition. Offer these contacts so that your students can share their new interests and if they have similar questions about returning home after their study abroad experience.
2. Pre-Departure Concepts – Many of your students may have taken time to familiarize themselves with the host country by researching current events and developments there. Advise your students to do the same as they plan their trip home. Read newspapers or magazines to maintain an awareness of the latest news and trends. Take time to also say good bye to those you met. Advise students to give themselves time for closure, as it is a healthy first step to readjusting to home.
3.Keep in Touch – A difficult process for many students is to maintain contact with their roommates, host family, or close friends they made while abroad. E-mails are a great way for quick correspondence or even writing and old fashioned letter. Students should keep up with current events back in the host country and update their friends on their life at home. They want to know how your life is back home and how you are doing.
4.Returning – Sometimes it is helpful to return during a school break or vacation time to the host country. You could even return for an internship. Many graduate students from the university I work for return to Boston to study and undergo an internship in the United States. Returning can be for a social occasion, an internship, or even a potential full time job one day.
5.Think Big Picture – Remember that your students have lived among a different group and experienced different approaches and values. Help your students find balance and share their experiences with people who share similar interests. Have them spread the message about their study abroad experience to students that may be considering a study abroad opportunity. The important thing to remember is that they take what they have learned from their study abroad experience, apply it to their daily life, and hopefully enrich their outlook on international education.