Sure, we all think about how to prepare students to go abroad. We’ve even written posts about it. But preparing them to return home after this significant experience is often neglected. A full-fledged re-entry support program is ideal … but if you are starting from scratch and don’t have the time, these three easy steps can ensure that at least something is happening.
Have a reflection meeting about returning (before returning!)
Many students aren’t even familiar with the idea that returning from a study abroad experience will be difficult - perhaps even more difficult than the changes related to going abroad.
Simply introducing the idea that returning home will be a challenge can make a big impact. That way, when students start feeling some of the effects of returning home, they will be able to identify them as a normal part of their study abroad experience - and that can save them from a great deal of anguish and confusion.
Here are a few articles about typical reentry issues:
BCA Study Abroad: What to Expect when Returning Home from Study Abroad
From GoOverseas.com: Dealing with Post Study Abroad Depression
Add a “returning from abroad” assignment to the coursework
If you’re teaching a course while abroad, or even requiring some sort of journaling, then you already have a perfect place to ask students to reflect on their re-entry experience.
We’d recommend asking students to reflect - before they return - on what they think it will be like to come home. You can follow that up by asking them to reflect on what the transition has been like a few weeks after they’ve settled in.
Host a get-together after returning
Part of the difficulty of returning home, after a group faculty-led program in particular, is being away from the group. Sure, everyone might be really ready to get away from each other at first, but connecting with others who have had a similar experience is a wonderful way for students to process their experience. (And, it is probably very good for you, too!)