Preparing to Depart Your Study Abroad Program
To assist in your transition back to the U.S., it is important you take the time to say good-bye to your host country and the people you have met during your study abroad experience, along with taking care of logistical details so your trip home will be smooth. Here are a few things you will want to do before leaving your host country!
- Make a wish list of all the things you want to do/accomplish before you leave. Do them!
- Make a list of the people you want to stay in contact with and gather their contact information.These are great people to reach out to as you work through re-entry adjustment along with internationally connected people at SHU.
- Take pictures of your favorite people, places, foods, etc. Pictures of everyday people and places you will not see any more may be the most precious and best way to explain to others how life was abroad. In addition, we would like to see your photos! The Office of Study Abroad has a photo contest you can enter upon return.
- Settle any financial issues. This includes checking in with SHU Financial Assistance to make sure you have done all you need to if you plan to receive financial aid your semester of return.
- Communicate with friends and family at home your feelings about returning home and what to expect as you go through cultural adjustment again upon return. Be conscious of making judgments and being overly critical of home.
- Confirm your move-out date in your host country accommodations. Confirm your housing upon return to SHU.
- Confirm your return flight. Check with the airline regarding weight/ size regulations and the costs for overweight or additional bags.
- Set aside time to say good-bye to your friends, your support on-site, your school and your city. These encounters may help you put into words what your experience has meant to you personally, academically, and professionally so you are ready to answer questions when you return to the U.S.
- Please complete our program evaluation within thirty (30) days of the program end date. This information is essential and is the only way that the Office of Study Abroad will be able to assess the programs and student needs. We welcome your comments and ideas!
- Students that directly enrolled at a host institution should have their host school TRANSCRIPTS sent to the Office of Study Abroad as soon as possible. Please contact the program directly to make this request. Our address is:
Sacred Heart University
The Office of Study Abroad – HC 220
5151 Park Avenue
Fairfield, CT 06825
Reverse Culture Shock?
We all know what culture shock is, but what is reverse culture shock? Upon returning home from a study abroad program, you can expect to go through some degree of “reverse culture shock” as you get back into your old routines with a new, different outlook on your surroundings. You have had a wonderful experience that has taught you many things but the new things that you have learned may not fit into your everyday world. You want to tell people about what you experienced but many friends would rather tell you what happened while you were away. People may see you as being more critical of things in your own culture and country and feel betrayed when you say you might want to go back there someday. You prefer the company of those who shared your experience, and in some cases your international experience takes on ideal qualities that cannot be matched at home. Just as living abroad required you to adjust, so does coming home. After all, you're not the same person you were when you went abroad. All returning study abroad students may experience some form of boredom, depression, and restlessness and it is completely normal. Below, please find some information on reverse culture shock and how to deal with it.
Things you may experience during this period (remember, you are not alone!):
- Sense that you can’t fully explain your experience or its importance
- Realization that others do not want to hear very much about your travels
- Feeling of being “out of place” or boredom with being home
- Experiencing “reverse homesickness” for the place where you studied abroad
- Seeing that relationships with family and friends have changed
- Viewing your home in a way that is negative or overly critical
- Feeling that your experience abroad is cut off from the rest of your life
Ways to cope with these feelings:
- Try to use the same adaptation skills that you developed while you were getting used to being abroad to make the transition to being home
- Just as you did while abroad, try to be patient in dealing with the temporarily unfamiliar culture of “home”
- Seek the company of people who understand you, who may not be the same people who understood you before your life-changing travel experiences
- Seek help from the SHU Counseling Center if you feel that your readjustment is not going well
Some ways to continue your “international education”:
- Talk with prospective study abroad students and help with study abroad events on campus. Your experiences and perspectives are of great value to students thinking about studying abroad. See the Study Abroad Calendar and contact us to sign up!
- Make a scrapbook of your travels. Include your memories alongside the photos and souvenirs.
- Look into internationally focused student clubs and organizations available at SHU, such as The Celtic or Italian Club.
- Plan your next trip! The Office of Study Abroad is happy to help you explore additional opportunities about the various programs available.
Coping with re-entry culture shock requires that you and those who care about you recognize its symptoms and origins. You are a different person after being abroad and instead of undoing all of the changes that have occurred in you:
- Take time to evaluate the two cultures and think about how you can incorporate parts of both into your lifestyle. Allow yourself time to adjust back to home.
- Talk to family members and friends about how you think you have changed and listen to their ideas.
- Preparation is important. It may help to start conversations while you are still abroad.
- Listen to the stories of what happened at home while you were away, and then share some of your own experiences. Try to keep an open mind as you listen and share.
- Seek out others who have been abroad for extended periods. There are many opportunities available to you to get involved.
- Learn more about what to expect returning home and coping from the resources on the SHU Study Abroad web site which has a page specific to Returning Students.
If you find yourself feeling sad that your experience of a lifetime has ended, remember that study abroad does not have to be a singular experience for you. Instead, look at it as only the start of a lifetime of international experiences.
Each year, the Office of Study Abroad will organize a Re-Entry Orientation (Date and Location: TBA) for returning study abroad students. Please contact us or check the study abroad calendar for further information. Students are encouraged to attend these important events, which will provide opportunities to:
- Reflect on experiences abroad
- Build a support network - learn about on-campus resources (counseling, peer support) and ways to get involved (career services, ambassador programs)
- Meet new people and relax - refreshments will be served
- This session is for students returning from a semester abroad and will focus on coping, reflecting, maintaining and marketing the study abroad experiences.
Useful links that may help with your transition:
- What's Up With Culture: Online Cultural Training Resource for Study Abroad
- The Center for Global Education’s Study Abroad Student Handbook: Reverse Culture Shock
- World Learning: After Study Abroad, a Toolkit for Returning Students
- CIEE Reverse Culture Shock
- "Preparing to Return Home" 10 "Quick Tips" by Dr. Bruce La Brack