Supporting Returning Students
There are many ways that you can show your support for study abroad returnees when they return to Skidmore. Students will continue to “unpack” their study abroad experience throughout the rest of their time at Skidmore and beyond. You can help facilitate this ongoing reflection process by showing an interest in their new perspectives.
Each semester, we’ll send you a list of the students in your department who have just returned. Here are a few ways you might engage with them:
- Ask students about their time abroad during advising sessions, before/after class, during office hours, etc. This will not only help them feel that someone is interested, but will also help you learn more about the opportunities for students abroad.
- Incorporate returnee perspectives into your class discussions and assignments. Students who have studied abroad often have a unique insight into a culture and region. Bring that perspective into the classroom!
- Encourage returnees to continue the work they started while abroad. This can mean developing a senior capstone or project around the research they did or reminding them about campus and community service opportunities that tie with the interest they developed while away.
- Attend returnee events hosted by OCSE the fall and winter to welcome recent study abroad students back to campus. Each fall we hold an ice cream social and in the spring we host an event in Falstaff’s called Lucy Goes Global. Your involvement reminds students that their experience touches the entire campus community.
Students often face adjustment issues when they return from abroad, often referred to as “reverse culture shock”. Feelings can range from the sense that no one understands how they’ve changed to feeling panicked that they will lose part of their identity if they don’t have an outlet to pursue the new interests that were sparked abroad.
Every student’s reaction to reintegrating into life back on campus will vary but they may experience one or more of the following:
- Uncertainty, confusion about the future
- Isolation or wanting to be alone
- Homesickness for their adopted country: missing the people, places, attitudes or lifestyles of your host country
- Changes in life goals and priorities
- Negativity or intolerance toward the United States, including Americans' behavior, attitudes, customs and common social practice
According to professionals in the field of International Education, 85% of people returning home have some kind of challenge with their re-entry experience, and of those, 15% have more serious difficulties adapting to their return. If you notice a student is having difficulty with his or her return, remind the student to think back to the adjustments s/he made to succeed while abroad. These same skills can help with coming home. Other things you can do:
- Encourage the student to come in and talk with OCSE staff
- Suggest that they attend events organized specifically for returnees
- Refer them to our online resources for returnees
If you feel a student requires further support, please encouraged him/her to seek professional help at the Counseling Center.