Markim Hall, Second Floor
As your off-campus experience comes to a close, you will certainly experience a range of emotions as you prepare to transition back to life at Macalester. Many students find it helpful to actively process cultural readjustment, spend time in reflection, and consider ways to integrate the off-campus study experience into life back on campus.
To your surprise, you might experience culture shock as you return to life in the US. This process is commonly referred to as “re-entry” and merits discussion. While abroad, you developed new knowledge and skills and may have encountered new belief systems. Continuing to journal and process the experience back on-campus can be beneficial. Many resources are available both in print and on-line for you to access as you navigate re-entry.
Some resources that we would recommend include:
- The Art of Coming Home
(Intercultural Press, 2001) by Craig Storti
Veteran trainer, consultant, and adventurer Craig Storti takes you step by step through the reentry experience and provides practical suggestions to the returnee for successful repatriation.
- Back in the USA
(NAFSA, 1999) by Dawn Kepets
This book helps to put your cross-cultural growth into perspective, compare differences in lifestyles and academic environments, and prepare for what may be the toughest part of studying abroad: the return home.
- Maximizing Study Abroad: A Student’s Guide to Strategies for Language and Culture Learning and Use
R. Michael Paige, Andrew D. Cohen, Barbara Kappler, Julie C. Chi and James P. Lassegard (Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota, 2002)
- Abroad View
has a section called “You’re Back. Now What?”
- Native Foreigner Magazine
an online community for travelers returning home after spending an extended period abroad.
- Re-entry culture shock summary from the Center for Global Education
- The Health & Wellness Center describes the stages of cultural of readjustment here: Stages of Readjustment
Suggestions for Coping with the Re-Entry Process
- Accept Frustration
The real key to re-entry is anticipating that there may be some frustration with adjusting to life in the US and at Mac – that the frustrations are a normal part of the total learning process and an ongoing part of the entire cross-cultural experience.
- Go Slow
Be patient with yourself. Remember that you adjusted to your host country and you can re-adjust here. Use the same coping skills and activities that helped while you were abroad. Get as involved as you can in campus life. Be kind to yourself in your re-adjustment as well as to others who are re-adjusting to you. Suspend judgment until a later, more settled time and keep your sense of humor.
Return to the habits, activities, and places that you love and missed—and re-experience them anew. Take friends with you and let them know what you missed about them while you were away.
- Be Involved
Spend time with people who care about what has happened to you and who have common experiences. Reach out to Mac’s international students. You can practice your language skills and help our international students have the same kind of meaningful experience here at Mac that you sought while abroad.
Engage your friends in your experience by showing pictures, cooking foods, sharing objects and stories, or watching movies from your host country. Remember, however, that they have had new experiences and challenges while you’ve been abroad too so be sure to ask them about those.
Share your new interests, perspectives or ideas with others. Write about your experience for campus or other publications. You can volunteer as an ESL teacher, tutor children, or speak to groups interested in global perspectives and experiences.
- Keep in Touch
Remember to keep in contact with your host family and the friends you’ve made abroad. This will not only help with homesickness for your host country but also keep those connections alive for future visits.
- Consider journaling. Continuing to update a journal to document important memories and as a means of reflection can be very helpful. Take advantage of these discussion & journal prompts provided by the Health & Wellness Center: Journal Prompts
- Global Scholar Online Learning for Study Abroad is a good source of information on re-entry, including useful journal prompts. Courses are free and can be completed at your own pace; Course 3 Once You Return is a great resource for this stage in the process.
Integrating your off-campus experience back on campus
Back on-campus, there are endless ways that you can integrate your off-campus experience into your into life at Macalester and beyond.
Here are a few ideas of where to start:
- Visit the International Center to debrief with one of the advisors. We are VERY eager to hear about your experience.
- Macalester Views
At orientation you learned about this photo library from Mac library staff. Contribute your off-campus study photos to this online database so that others can access the images.
- Scholarships and Fellowships
Such as the Fulbright or the Watson or the Forum on Education Abroad’s Undergraduate Research Award
- Apply your experience off-campus towards an Honors Project
- Inquire with the International Center about symposiums such as the annual ACM Student Symposium on Off-Campus Study, Scholarship & Sandwiches Study Abroad Edition, and other department co-sponsored events. There are many opportunities to hear about what others studied while off-campus and to share your own findings.
- Attend the Macalester Returnee Luncheon hosted by the Health & Wellness Center
- Attend the Minnesota Study Abroad Returnee Conference held in the fall to learn about how to leverage your off-campus study experience for use in a resume and interviews
- Volunteer as a Peer Advisor during future Off-Campus Study Orientations
- Apply to work as a Study Abroad Assistant in the International Center
- Submit an independent study project or final paper to Macalester Abroad
- Contact the Civic Engagement Center to identify opportunities to apply your off-campus experience locally. This might allow you to practice language skills developed abroad or to present some of what you learned to kids in local schools.
- Check out these suggestions for integrating your study abroad experience from the Health & Wellness Center: Integrating Experience
- Continue to talk to friends, family, and whoever else will listen to you about your off-campus study experience.