Monthly Archives: July 2016

Tips for Returning Home

When you first started planning your study abroad experience, you probably worried about language barriers, culture shock, new customs and foods, making friends, and getting lost. But now that you’ve been abroad for weeks, months, or years, you might wonder at all the fuss. Things that were foreign and stressful have now become familiar and routine, and you finally feel at home in your host country…just in time to pack your bags and return to your real home. Typical. Hopefully you’ve had such an amazing time abroad that the prospect of returning to your ‘real’ life in your home country makes you just a bit apprehensive. Don’t worry – most international students and ex-pats struggle a bit on the return home. But if you give yourself time to readjust and keep some simple rules in mind, you’ll find the transition a lot easier.

1. Beware of ‘reverse-culture shock’

When you prepared to study abroad, you were probably warned that you would face some form of culture shock upon arrival, and now you have all sorts of stories about the ways in which your host-country caught you off guard. The thing is, the same can happen when you return home. Whether it’s differences in food (or portion sizes), the way people behave, or the way things are done, there are many things about your home country that you may have forgotten or never noticed before, but which will now seem alien and possibly ridiculous after your time away. Try to keep this in perspective. Yes, monster-sized convenience meals could seem wasteful and unappetizing after months of Vietnamese street food, or you might find it difficult to transition back to a nine-to-five work day from the siesta culture of Italy. But if you can view your home country the way you did your host country and try to understand the ‘why’ of things, you’ll find the transition a lot easier. Just remember that it takes time, so don’t expect to be back to your ‘normal’ self hours after going through customs, and don’t be surprised if you feel a bit out of place.

2. Understand that no one will fully understand

If you tried to explain to a local in your host country what you found so strange or surprising about their culture, they may have been sympathetic but probably didn’t fully understand. The same will be true on the return home. Your friends and family may be interested to hear about your adventures, but unless they were there with you, they won’t fully understand everything that was new, amazing, frustrating, and exhilarating about studying and living abroad. Realize that this is okay, and be patient and courteous. Don’t inundate your family and friends with all the details of life overseas. Answer questions that are asked, but understand that most people just want to hear that you had a great time, ate some amazing new foods, and saw that one really famous landmark. And as much as you might want to sit and deconstruct the differences between your home and host countries, realize that for many people back home your new enthusiasm for bullet trains, socialized medicine, or flexible time-keeping may come across as overly critical or disloyal.

3. Keep in touch while abroad

One way to avoid the inevitable information dump once your return home is to maintain regular contact while abroad. While this can be difficult depending on time zones, logistics, and technology, it will help to continue relationships with your friends and family back home. You don’t have to call or text multiple times per day, but try to keep your loved ones in the loop while you’re away – arrange to call or email regularly, and don’t monopolize your communication or correspondence with news from abroad. Homecoming football games and family birthdays may seem boring when you’re trekking through the Australian outback or learning Korean, but news from home will help you keep a sense of continuity, and will show the people back home that you may be having the time of your life abroad, but you still care about home. Even better, keep a blog or photo-journal while your away and share it with all your friends and family. They’ll be able to keep track of your adventures on their own time, and you won’t feel the need to inundate everyone with a full run-down of your life overseas once you return. Plus, you can keep the blog going so that your new friends abroad can hear about life back home.

4. Prepare for and embrace change

Keeping in touch with friends and family back home is essential to a smooth transition, but it’s inevitable that you will miss out on major and minor things while you’re gone. Still, many returning study abroad students express a paradoxical sense that home is both very much the same and very different. Of course, life went on while you were away and you need to anticipate that your friends and family will have changed and moved on without you. But you’ve changed as well, as has your relationship with everything that was once familiar. Don’t be afraid of the change, but don’t feel that you need to revert to your old self. Your travels will have changed the way you see the world, and that’s a good thing.

 

Study in Multiple Countries

Many university study abroad programs used to encourage students to study abroad during their junior year. This wisdom was based on the idea that most students would be well-established in their degree field, but would still have time upon return to take any additional requirements and still graduate within four years. But the value of international education has outstripped traditional ideas of academic security, and more and more students are looking for ways to earn their degrees abroad. Still many students imagine that studying abroad multiple times or long-term is completely out of reach for the average student.

Luckily, governments around the world realize the value of international students and campuses around the world are ready and waiting for students from abroad. So why wait? Grab your passport and read on to find out why you should earn your degree abroad!

1. It’s not expensive

Only 10% of American students study abroad, and one of the major deterrents is the perceived costs of international study. And even those students who realize the value of a study abroad experience often believe that their funds will only cover a short-term semester or year program. But the truth is that studying abroad doesn’t have to be expensive, and in some cases completing your degree abroad could be more affordable than staying domestic. Of course, there will always be countries, universities, and programs that can break the bank but if you choose wisely, you can study in one or more locations overseas without wracking up a ton of student debt. If you want to maintain a domestic presence, start by considering tuition-exchange programs. Your school’s study abroad office can help you identify programs where your tuition (and sometimes room and board) will be the same as your home institution. And you’re not limited to a single tuition-exchange experience, so can study psychology in the Netherlands, round off your Spanish minor in Peru, and complete your honors project in Indonesia without paying more for tuition than you would at home.

But what if you want to earn your entire degree abroad? Again, it doesn’t have to be expensive. There are many countries around the world where tuition is low or free for international students, and while living costs can vary from country to country if you do your research a degree abroad could cost a fraction of a four-year program at home. Universities in Germany and Norway are tuition-free, even for overseas students, and in Brazil, Slovenia, and France students at public universities pay only nominal fees. Some countries, like Poland, make it easy for international students to pay tuition feesgradually while others allow international students to pay the same low fees as domestic students.

2. You’ll learn languages

One of the biggest benefits of spending as much time abroad as possible will be the chance to learn new languages. It goes without saying that the longer you spend immersed in a language, the more likely you are to learn and retain your new knowledge. And the great news is, you don’t have to learn the language before you go! International students are a major resource for universities around the world, and you’ll find English-language programs in almost every country. Finland and Sweden both offer numerous courses in English, which means you can study sociology, or computer programming, or music by day, and practice your Scandinavian language skills after class. And while campus-hopping may seem counter-intuitive for language acquisition, for some students it’s the ideal way to perfect and diversify their language skills. For instance, students who study Spanish (currently the second most -spoken language in the world) can benefit from nomadic studies. Like English, Spanish varies according to country and region, so three semesters in Spain, followed by a year in Mexico, topped off with semesters in Argentina, Chile, and Honduras will give a Spanish-language student broad exposure to the variances of the language.

3. You’re not alone

Of course, planning to study abroad long-term or in multiple locations can seem daunting, and it doesn’t matter if it’s tuition-exchange or tuition-free, if you can’t figure out the logistics you’ll never get your feet off the ground. But don’t worry. Study abroad is a priority in many countries, and there are many resources out there for students who want to complete degrees abroad or campus-hop their way to a diploma. There are scholarships, like the Fulbright and Gilman programs, that work to send students abroad. The Erasmus+ Program focuses on student mobility in Europe and abroad. In the US, government organizations like Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs want more American students to study abroad. If you’re enrolled in a university, visit your school’s study abroad office to find out more about initiatives for study abroad, or find directly here the program that’s right for you.