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Practical Advice -- Coming Home
You can do a number of things to support your friend or family member and to encourage integration of the study abroad experience into current activities and future goals.
Returning participants may feel alienated and alone. You can be supportive during this process by allowing them to talk endlessly it may seem to you about their experiences and feelings upon re-entry. They may need somebody who really cares about what they have experienced and how they have changed. Listen to their stories, ask questions about their experiences, and encourage them to share photographs. Give them the freedom to adjust at their own pace. This will include a certain tolerance for a lot of “down” time. Try not to be judgmental, even though they might seem to be overly critical of the US Their attitudes and behavior will adjust as they integrate the overseas experience into their lives at home. Remember that they have changed and grown over the time they were abroad. They will not return as the same old people, but as people with new knowledge and insights on life.
Pay attention to your own feelings about and reactions to the participant’s return. It is easy to resent the fact that you were not an important part of the participant’s life during the time abroad. It is also easy to want everything to go back to the way it was before. Try to celebrate the changes rather than feel threatened by them. While this is very important for the participant, it may be a very difficult thing for you to do.
You can help participants adjust by encouraging them to think through the many ways in which they have changed as a result of their experiences. They may want to look back on the Practical Advice Pre-Departure section of this website for aspects of identity that may have changed. Once again, encourage them to write their impressions in a personal journal. Also encourage returning participants to get in touch with others who have been abroad and can identify with their experiences.
Participants should also be encouraged to find ways to incorporate their new interests and cross-cultural skills into their life. Much of the learning during a study abroad experience comes from outside the traditional learning environment. There are many opportunities in the US and abroad to expand on this type of learning. Possible suggestions for returning participants include:
Undertake undergraduate research projects that integrate learning from the study abroad experience
Many participants find it rewarding to apply what they have learned by participating in a second overseas experience in another part of the world or in a different kind of program!