I feel there is a general agreement and recommendations on how much you should prepare when planning to go abroad. However, what happens after studying abroad? People who return from a long experience abroad can suffer from reverse culture shock. Essentially, reverse culture shock is when you are trying to adjust to being home, similar to what happens when you first arrive in a new country. Below are some ways to help you deal with coming back from your experience abroad.
1) Respond to a Reentry Assessment
Whether you had a positive or negative experience abroad, you need to answer surveys about your experience abroad. Institutions or program providers usually have a survey they send to students when they return. This allows them to make adjustments or improvements if necessary in their study abroad programs. Learning from experiences that were not perfect is the best way to revamp the program. I remember when I came back from my exchange program, I received a survey about this from my university. It was kind of long, but I was honest and reflected on what was good and what wasn’t.
2) Join an Alumni Network
Alumni networks allow you to stay connected to your cohort and even meet other participants from that program. If your institution or program provider does not have an alumni network for students who went abroad, take the initiative and see if you can start one. I wish my exchange program had a better alumni network. This is because I would have liked to have a space where I met previous participants and talked to others about their experiences in the program.
3) Become a Mentor
This could be part of the alumni network. It is commonly known that students who have gone abroad take every opportunity to talk about their experience. What better way to inspire other students than by becoming a mentor? Some students have never been abroad and might feel nervous. Having someone who went to a specific country or region might help them decide if they want to pursue it. You will know firsthand the do’s and don’ts.
You might even reflect on how your experience could have been better. Now that I am in graduate school, I am exploring where I want to end up with my career in the international education field. I have completed some informational interviews that are narrowing my interest. Finding people who graduated from my program and where they are after graduation is a great way to figure out my next step.
4) Incorporate Your Study Abroad Experience into Your Resume and Cover Letter
With this one, I am definitely speaking from my international educator background. When you’re returning from studying abroad, this is probably one of the last things on your mind, but it is important. Studying abroad lets you gain 21st-century career skills that can be transferred to a job. We live in a globalized world, where we are engaging with companies abroad and working with diverse populations. It is essential to know how to interact with people from different backgrounds.
5) Create a Blog or Vlog
If all of this is not enough, then create a blog or vlog to write or film about your experiences. You will reach other audiences who might not have the opportunity to speak to alumni who have gone abroad, and at least reading from others’ experiences can give some background on what their opportunity might be like. Personally, when I was applying to the Disney College Program, it was very helpful to watch videos from people who had gone through the application and the interview process.
Returning home after studying abroad can be disorientating. To prevent you getting into too much of a spin, try some of my recommendations above. Glad to be of assistance to my fellow students.