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Insight for Returning Students

Last-Minute Insight for Adjusting to Life Back at Home

Recognize that anxiety is natural…
Adjusting to your “old” way of life is not easy. There is often a stress factor involved with coming back home and not realizing how much you have changed.

Empathize…
To empathize means to put yourself in the other person’s place and to look at the situation form his or her perspective. This is especially important when you first return. Not very many people are going to be able to relate to your experience. It is important to understand that and have patience with friends and family. Also realize that they had their own unique experiences while you were away and may have changed as well.

Take a Break…
Upon your return you will have many people to see and catch up with, but don’t over do yourself. Take time for yourself to journal about your coming home experience and process all your new thoughts.

Be Honest…
Don’t be afraid to voice your new opinions—but always remember to be considerate and respectful.

Become Involved…
In order to maintain all of your new found knowledge and hold on to your international experience, become involved in programs that will allow you to share with others your experiences. Global ambassadors and classroom speaker’s bureau are a couple programs that allow you to do that.

Deal Positively with Stress…
It is important to maintain regular life patterns. Eat, sleep, and exercise. When problems seem to be building up, mentally step back from them. Divide your problems up, understand each one, and work on them one at a time. If you find that your problems do not seem to be getting any better, do not hesitate to seek guidance or counseling—the Office of Off-Campus Programs and International Studies can help or make referrals.

Making the best of reverse culture shock

  • Pray—ask God for wisdom, guidance, and joy
  • Connect with other returnees—the Office of Off-Campus Programs/ International Studies can help you find them
  • Become a Global Ambassador in our office! New students are hired regularly
  • Work to integrate the two cultures—journal, pray, talk through this with others
  • Participate in on-campus international events/forums
  • Connect with international students on campus
  • Continue to study the language of your host country
  • Transfer aspects of your host culture to your home: articles of clothing, photographs, recipes, music . . .
  • Contribute to Picture this World Photo Essay Contest
  • Enroll in courses in new areas of interest which you developed during your off-campus program
  • Keep up with events in your host country/city
  • Maintain contact with friends overseas and fellow students from your program
  • Think about going abroad again: plan a return trip, work abroad after university…
  • Plan your career to include your international experience
  • Use Bethel’s Counseling Services as a resource (x8540)
  • Visit the Office of Off-Campus Programs/International Studies at any time to talk things over
  • Visit the “What’s up with Culture?” website for information about re-entry.
  • Look for tips on how to deal with reverse culture shock.

Recording your experiences

Just as you may have done when you were abroad, you may choose to keep a journal of your experiences and feelings after you return to the U.S.

Some possible questions to ask yourself:

  • What did I learn about the host culture? About myself?
  • How can I apply what I learned to my life back home?
  • Who will listen to my stories? Who could I meet with to get more involved in international activities?
  • Do I think of the U.S. any differently now that I have returned? What do I like most about my home culture? The least?
  • What advice would I give to those who are leaving tomorrow for my host country?
  • How did I learn those things?
  • What has changed from the time I left to now? How have I changed?
  • How would I describe the “world” that now surrounds me? How does this differ from the “world” I just left?

Maintaining language proficiency

After spending a semester in a non-English speaking country, you no doubt developed language skills that take years to perfect in the classroom. Now that you have this ability, don’t you want to keep it? Here are some suggestions for maintaining your language skill.

  • Register for a class taught in the target language
  • Stay in touch with your friends and host-families abroad
  • Tune into news broadcasts in your foreign language by using a short wave radio or the Internet
  • The office of Modern World Languages also has a TV that receives a variety of foreign shows.
  • Volunteer to work with English language learners