When your student returns home he or she will undergo a variety of emotions. The sight of familiar surroundings will be a relief to some, but being away from a place where they formed strong friendships and experienced many new things will be nostalgic for others. Whichever may apply to your student, it is not uncommon for them to feel like strangers in their own community. This is referred to as reverse culture shock. Re-entry shock is also a normal and natural part of the study abroad experience. How do you help your student through this stage?
While most of the changes will be positive, some may be surprising. American culture and customs which previously were considered “normal” may now be appalling or bizarre to your student. Give him or her time to adjust to this “new normal.” Let him or her know you are aware that it may, initially, be difficult to readjust back to the U.S., home, and college life.
LISTEN AND OBSERVE
Show an interest in your student’s experience by listening to his or her stories, looking at pictures together, and giving him or her time and space to re-acclimate.
ENCOURAGE COMMUNICATION AND INVOLVEMENT
Encourage your student to stay in touch with friends he or she made overseas and to get involved in internationally related activities at home, on campus, and in the community. There are numerous organizations such as Davidson International Association (DIA), the Timmy Foundation, Dean Rusk Global Corps, Davidson Micro finance Club, and the Ada Jenkins Center.
If your student shows an interest in study abroad for a second time, encourage him or her to search for opportunities that will fit into their academic plans. Study abroad shapes students in new ways and will influence their interests and professional aspirations. Davidson College has a vast network of alumni working abroad or on international issues. Making an appointment with the Center for Career Development may be a helpful next step.
REMIND YOUR STUDENT of RESOURCES:
Remind your student that the Center for Student Health and Well-Being at Davidson College is also a valuable resource to help them facilitate the re-entry process. Students are provided with free counseling sessions. Appointments are confidential and can be made by calling 704-894-2451.