Welcome Back to Lawrence!

Welcome, worldly travelers! Although some of your off-campus programs were closer to Lawrence than others, you have all returned to campus with brand new experiences and with a fresh perspective on the world. Congratulations!

Many students who return from study abroad experience something called ‘re-entry or reverse culture shock’. This is often unexpected and challenging and can make the transition from being abroad to being back at home, or back at Lawrence, a stressful situation. However, feeling not-stressed about your return is also totally normal.

Check out the resources below and get started on your life back at Lawrence!

+Reverse Culture Shock

Re-entry adjustment can manifest itself differently in everyone and can be very unsettling. Common feelings include:

• Initial excitement about being back that turns into irritability that, although you have changed so much while you were away, you are expected to jump right back into your old position and your old habits.
• Anxiety about academics that no longer feel dynamic and about how classes and skills you learned abroad no longer seem relevant at Lawrence.
• Boredom and frustration over the monotony that surrounds homework and daily activities.
• Frustration with people around you for not understanding the larger, global issues
• Feeling that you have changed so much when you were abroad that you no longer share all the opinions with your friends and family that you did when you left
• Stress related to friends and social groups that continued to grow, develop, and change while you were gone
• Strong desire to share your experiences but difficulty finding people who actually care enough to listen

Feeling these things is completely normal. Also, feeling extremely elated to be back at Lawrence and having a stress-free transition is also normal. Just as everyone experiences cultural adjustment differently when they go abroad, everyone experiences returning to campus differently.

How do you cope with re-entry cultural adjustment?

Keep an open mind

Think back to your first week off-campus; it was hard to adjust to living life in a different country, with different social and cultural assumptions, different habits, different manners, and possibly even a different language. Re-entry can be very similar. Keeping an open mind to how things make you feel, even to things that you know are supposed to be normal and enjoyable, can really help you understand where your anxiety is coming from.
Coming back from a different living situation, it is easy to get caught up in all the things that are different and to feel pessimistic about life in America (or in Appleton, specifically). Remember to keep an open mind. Make a list of things that are worrying you about being back in Appleton and make a list of the things that are making you relieved to be back home.

Take a deep breath

It is incredibly easy to get caught up in Lawrence’s fast pace and to loose yourself in the rush of classes, meetings, rehearsals, and practices. Lawrence is a busy place, but taking some time to calm yourself can be hugely beneficial. Carve out a 15-minute chunk of time once a week to just sit and think about your time off campus, write down your thoughts in a diary, or just look at pictures from your adventures. It's very important to take time to process your experience and not just put it behind you.

Try new things

Make some changes and test out the waters. It's easy to feel bored falling back into your old patterns at school, but challenge yourself to try something new! Find a new organization that interests you and join, or if you are already in numerous organizations, find ways of including your new perspective from off campus study into your times with them. This can also provide a space to be independent and showcase all of the amazing things that you came to love while off campus and all the ways that you have grown since you were last at Lawrence.

Take a look at Lawrence's list of organizations to see what kinds of new groups might be interesting to you! Be sure to take a look at groups who are focused on different cultures and traditions.

Keep in touch

Keep in contact with your host family and any friends you might have made while abroad. It may feel awkward or like you are pushing yourself back into their lives, but chances are they are feeling your absence very strongly and would be delighted to continue a relationship with you. Keeping in touch with close contacts from abroad can also help maintain language (and other) skills and make sure you feel like your adventures are still a part of your life at Lawrence.

Use your support structure

Although it may not always seem like it, your family and friends are here for you. It's often hard to explain your experience to someone who was not there with you and it may often feel like they are not interested in listening to your stories or hearing about your adventures. This does not mean that they do not care about you.Try to imagine how you would react in their position. Although they will maybe never understand the significance of some of your stories, they still want to support you. Sometimes its best to save long stories for people who have either been to your place of study or who express deep interest. You may be surprised by your friends' interest in your experiences! Your family and friends are also great people to turn to if you are feeling reverse culture shock. They can help you remember good things about your home and about Lawrence, and they can help support you through emotional periods.

+Academic Resources

There are many ways to incorporate your off campus education into your time at Lawrence. Here are some suggestions:

Meet with your advisor

The first step on your path after returning from off campus should be to meet your academic advisor. Whether its just to touch base about your academic (and non-academic) experiences, or to chat about your future at Lawrence they can help you create a future plan and ensure that you are academically interested during your transition back to Lawrence. They can help you navigate the credit transfer process, explore how different off-campus courses might fit into various academic requirements, and decide how you would like to integrate study abroad into the rest of your Lawrence experiences.

Continuing Topics from off campus

If you want to learn more about the area or the nation in which you were studying, or any of the topics that you learned about while off campus, schedule a meeting with your academic advisor (or a professor who is interested in similar topics) to talk about what kinds of opportunities are available. If you're feeling stuck in the Lawrence academic system, consider taking independent studies or directed studies. See if your advisor knows (or knows someone who has experience with) any of the things you are interested in continuing to learn about. Describe any research you did off campus and ask them how you could continue to explore those areas.

Future Research

Start to brainstorm ways in which you could incorporate your off-campus study into your senior project or capstone. Take a look at current seniors' posters, papers, or presentations to see how your interests might fit well with the capstone format for your major(s).

Use your skills

Apply to the CTL to become a tutor. This could mean being a content tutor for a class related to your interests, or a language tutor for students in lower levels of fluency. This is also a great way to keep up your own language abilities.

If you are interested in helping other students study off-campus successfully, talk to the Off-Campus Programs office about what kinds of opportunities are available to work for them or to become a student Alumni Contact.

+Off Campus Study in your Career

The business world has become increasingly globalized in recent years. Many employers are looking for employees that have a practical understanding of how to interact with other people of other cultures and who have international experience. Your off campus study, when utilized and explained appropriately in interview, resume, cover letters, and networking, can be an advantage in the job marketplace. Learning how to 'market' your study abroad experience can help you get a job (or get into graduate school) in the future!

Click here to see the slides from a recent Career Services presentation about marketing your off-campus study experience. 

Resume

Placement: The best location for your study abroad experience depends on what you want to use it for. Most often it should fit under any Education section that you have created. It could also be used under sections for Research, Related Skills, Language Skills, or Work Experience, along with many others. When listing your program, make sure you mention one or two specific things that you gained from the program. That could be the chance to do independent research, opportunity to learn about another culture, or a chance to speak another language. It can also be helpful to state what kinds of skills you feel that you gained through your experience (i.e. flexibility/ adaptability, ability to solve complex problems, ability to interact harmoniously with a diverse group of people, better understanding of yourself, cross-cultural sensitivity, independence, tolerance, etc.).

Any research that you completed can also be highlighted if it is applicable. Explain what the title of the project was and where you completed it. Not all employers will want to see your research experience in this detail, but if it feels appropriate, give details about what the end result of the project was and what kinds of skills you learned during the process of said research.

Even if the job you are applying to does not highlight or recommend that you have international experience, it is always helpful to list the transferable skills that you gained off-campus that are applicable to the position.

Cover letter

A cover letter is similar to the resume in that it is a tool for showing yourself off and explaining why you are qualified for the position your are applying to. However, a cover letter is more of an explanation of how your experiences combine to make you an excellent candidate. Use your cover letters to explain what skills you learned off campus and how they combine with other parts of your life to ensure that you would do a great job.

Interviews

Today, many of the questions asked in interviews are centered upon skills, strengths, and flaws. Whenever you are answering one of these questions, it is always a good idea to use an example to back up your claims. For example, if you are asked to list one of your greatest strengths, you might answer that you are a very good communicator, especially in delicate situations, and then discuss a time when you were off campus and were interacting with a friend whose native language was not English. Always approach an interview with a list of experiences (not exclusively from off campus study) that you can use to back up claims that you are a hard-working, intelligent, and thoughtful human being. You may be surprised by how many examples of personal strength you can find when you start pondering your experiences from off campus.

Working in International Education

Some students return from off-campus study interested in working in the field of International Education.  You can find tips about getting into the field here.

If you want to know more about successfully utilizing an off campus study experience in your future career, contact Career Services!

 

+Other Resources

Here is a compilation of some other resources to take a look at if you want more information.

Click here to learn more about reverse culture shock and to learn about what kinds of things you can do to overcome it.

Click here to learn more about how to market your off-campus experience.

If you are interested in going abroad again or working abroad after graduation, check out these options.

Peace Corps, Fulbright, Overseasjobs.com, Crossculturalsolutions.org, WWOOF, Goabroad.com.

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