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What is Re-Entry?

Re-entry is the process of returning after studying abroad. It is not uncommon for students to expect a smooth transition home. Yet, after the initial excitement of reconnecting with family and friends, students may be left feeling frustrated and disappointed when those expectations do not fit reality. The familiarity and predictability of home may now feel foreign.

Like many students returning home or back to campus from abroad, you may experience a range of emotions. You may find yourself feeling antsy, sad, confused, bored, or just "off."  Perhaps you find yourself missing the new friendships you formed, dreaming about your host country, or upset that your family and friends do not understand what your time abroad was like. Although there is not a linear process of re-entry, the re-entry "worm" helps to understand the thoughts and feelings you may experience – tourist high, shock, and adjustment.

Re-entry is not an entirely negative experience, but it is hard work. Through the process of re-adaptation to the US, you will discover new skills and insights about yourself.  Your study abroad experience challenged you to consider a new perspective about another culture and your own. You have developed more flexibility, skills, values, and openness to new ideas that you may not have gained if you stayed home. Through this process, may you emerge a more resilient and resourceful individual than before.

10 Tips for Returning From Abroad

1) Say meaningful goodbyes and plan ways to stay in touch with friends from the host country and from your group.

2) Reflect on your time abroad and returning home (i.e. keep a journal of your thoughts, feelings, and questions).

3) Develop and participate in support groups with others from your program. Join the JMU Study Abroad Alumni Association Facebook group to stay connected with other internationally-minded individuals.

4) Create a photo album from study abroad so you can easily share your experiences with others.

5) Stay connected to your host country and culture (i.e. stay in touch with people from abroad, find a language partner, listen to the radio or music, read books, articles, and magazines, etc.).

6) Volunteer or work for NGOs and local or national movements.

7) Participate or present in conferences, seminars, or presentations that are related to what you learned or would like to learn about the host country.

8) Synthesize what you learned during the program and consider how to reflect acquired skills in a resume or job interview.

9) Think about what were the important aspects about your experience that you want to share with your family and friends. Often people ask, "How was it?" Decide how you will respond to that question in three minutes and thirty minutes.

10) Develop a re-entry action plan. See sample below.

PERSONAL/EMOTIONAL PROCESS. I plan to do the following in order to prepare for and deal with the personal/emotional stress I may face upon my return to home:

CIVIC ENGAGEMENT. I plan to do the following in order to contribute to positive social change on my campus or home community and continue engagement with my host country or region:

ACADEMIC REINTEGRATION. I plan to do the following in order to actively integrate my new knowledge, interests, and skills into my university experience:

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT. I plan to do the following in order to incorporate my new skills and interests into my professional path:

Tips and strategies from worldlearning.org. For additional resources regarding re-entry check out the World Learning Toolkit.

Reflection Questions to Unpack Your Study Abroad Experience

In order to get the most out of your study abroad experience, it is important to take time to process your experience. Reflection helps to recognize and evaluate how you have been impacted through your study abroad experience and how it will influence your future. Reflection will also help you make meaning out of your experience abroad and your return to the US. Long after you have returned, reflection is one of the ways you will continue to carry your study abroad experience with you.

Reflection can happen individually, with another person, or in a small group. Some people like to reflect through writing, thinking, or talking. Choose whatever method works best for you or a variety of ways. There is not a right or wrong answer to any of these questions, they simply allow you to continue to process your experience beyond your initial return home.

  • What did you learn about yourself while abroad?
  • What did you love about study abroad?
  • What challenges did you overcome while abroad?
  • What lessons did you learn that you will never forget?
  • What surprised you?
  • How was your life different while abroad?
  • How did your outlook on the world change while you were abroad?
  • How did this experience change your values, perspective, and goals?
  • How did your study abroad experience fall short of, meet, or exceed your expectations?
  • What skills, knowledge, and attitudes did you gain while abroad? How will you make use of these new changes now that you are back home?
  •  What can you get involved in back on campus at JMU to satisfy your new goals and interests?
Additional Resources

Below are a list of resources for more information on reverse culture shock and what you can expect when you return from abroad.

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