Welcome back to the United States and Skidmore College! How is it to be back? Are you finding that coming home is more difficult than you anticipated, or have you made the transition back with ease? Many students find that while it’s great to be reunited with loved ones and hanging out in all the old comfortable places, they’re still feeling a little out of place. While the transition back to campus will be different for everyone, there are a lot of resources available and upcoming events designed to help welcome you back to campus and connect to other students going through the same transition.
Each semester, OCSE will plan events for returned study abroad students. We also invite returned study abroad students to promotional events to share their experience studying off campus.
Each fall, we typically hold a welcome back event, the Off-Campus Study Fair, Speed Advising, a Photo Contest, and International Education Week, a week of internationally-themed events. In the spring semester, we typically hold another welcome back event with the student club, Lively Lucy, a resume workshop with the Career Development Center, and the Show & Tell contest.
In addition to events on campus, Skidmore College also collaborates with local colleges/universities for the Evolve conference (currently suspended for 2020-21). This conference is specifically designed for study abroad returnees!
RE-ADJUSTING TO life at skidmore
Many of the feelings you may experience stem from the change you have undergone personally and ambiguity about how the new, changed you fits into your old life. It is important to remember that change is a positive thing. You have new ideas and a better sense of who you are. The trick is to figure out how to incorporate your new perspectives into your life at Skidmore College.
There are several things you can do to feel comfortable once again in the United States
while still retaining new knowledge and perspectives. First, don’t consider study
abroad a singular experience; instead, look at it as the start of a lifetime of international
experiences. Second, find ways to continue pursuing newfound interests. Make the most
of the resources that exist for you at Skidmore and in the local community.
Here are a few ideas:
- Take a language class or consider being a language tutor.
- Join a student club with and international focus, such as the Asian Cultural Awareness, International Affairs Club,International Student Union, Model U.N., and Model E.U. Consider starting your own club!
- Seek out international students on campus and share your cross-cultural experiences.
- Help the OCSE recruit and prepare new study abroad students by helping with the Study Abroad Fair or pre-departure orientation, or be available to answer questions about your program informally.
- Volunteer to help members of the community who speak English as a second language.
- Check out foreign films from the Scribner Library or from the Saratoga Springs Public Library.
- Host an international dinner party and make your friends a dish from your host country.
- Go to lectures on international affairs (check the Skidmore Calendar and watch for individual department postings).
- Make a conscious effort to visit art shows, museums, and historic sights in the area.
- Stay in touch with friends and family from your host country.
- Submit original writing you did while abroad to be published in the Skidmore News.
- Get serious in your planning about what you are going to do after graduation: visit the Career Development Center and start exploring your options.
- Talk with someone from the Counseling Center about the difficulties you are facing.
- Begin planning your next travel experience, domestic or international.
The unsettled feeling that can accompany one’s return from abroad is what some refer to as “reverse culture shock” and is a very common reaction for students coming home from studying abroad. Feelings can range from the sense that no one understands how you've changed, to feeling panicked that you will lose part of your identity if you don’t have an outlet to pursue the new interests that were sparked abroad. Your own reactions to reintegrating to life the United States may vary from your friends, but may include one or more of the following:
- Uncertainty, confusion about the future
- Isolation or wanting to be alone<
- Reverse homesickness: 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 re-entry experience, and of those, 15% have more
serious difficulties adapting to their return. If you’re having difficulty with your
return, think back to the adjustments you made to succeed while you were abroad. These
same skills can help you in coming home.
Remember that “W”-curve of cultural adjustment—the initial euphoria, followed by lots of criticism, followed by general acceptance and understanding of the new culture? Well, the same pattern applies to re-entry. The coping skills and strategies that were successful in helping you to adjust to your overseas culture will be just as helpful in making the return home: get involved, identify a support group of other study abroad students, suspend judgment of others, keep a journal of your observations, and don’t forget to keep your sense of humor. Students are also encouraged to seek professional help at the Counseling Center.