The Study Abroad Re-Entry Process
Planning for the Trip Home
Please know that you are expected to be on-site for the entire duration of your program. This means that you should depart no earlier than the departure date of your program. If, for instance, your program runs from July 18 to August 15, you must leave your program accommodation by the designated time on the last day of the program. If you plan to stay abroad after your program ends, make sure to make housing and traveling arrangements in advance. Also, we recommend that you secure additional travel insurance for the extended travel dates that go beyond the dates of the program.
Before returning to the US, think about all the farewells you will be making. Think about all of the last-minute visits and activities that you might want to do before your final departure. Planning for the trip home takes forethought and organization. Also, it is a good idea to connect with friends and family back home before traveling so that return process is less stressful.
For your return flight, you should contact the airline and reconfirm your seat at least 72 hours in advance. If you plan to travel independently before leaving the country, verify with your airline if you are able to change the return date of your ticket. Depending upon ticket restrictions, this may possible for a fee.
Going through U.S. Customs and Immigration
When you fly back to the U.S., you will go through customs in the airport of the first U.S. city on your itinerary. You will need to declare the total value of everything you purchased while abroad (unless you bought it primarily to use there), and you may have to pay a special tax on imported goods, called a customs tax or duty if what you bring back to the U.S. exceeds a certain amount of money. Usually there is no cause for students to declare anything, but you should be aware of these policies.
Do not lie on your Customs Declaration. It is possible that you may have to open your luggage and display your personal items as well as the goods you are importing. Items originating in certain countries are illegal and may be confiscated (you could face fines or other penalties). Review the rules and regulations for customs declaration here: http://www.cbp.gov/travel/us-citizens.
Shipping Things Home
If you find at the end of your program that you have acquired too many souvenirs for your luggage, you have the option of mailing a package to the U.S. Another option is for you to take an extra suitcase in order to transport the items you have acquired abroad. The rate for excess luggage varies by airline. Review your airline’s luggage policies and compare that to the cost of shipping belongings via mail.
Completion of Courses
You are responsible for completing all courses in which you are enrolled, and are expected to take the exams scheduled for your courses. Failure to do so will adversely affect your grades. As with any university course in the U.S., final exam dates are typically announced early in the term and cannot be modified.
If you wish to extend your stay in the city where you studied abroad after your program has ended, it may be possible to arrange for extended housing. However, this is done on a case by case basis, and you should be prepared to make your own arrangements for lodging.
Re-Adjusting Back Home
After returning to the U.S., you may experience some unexpected feelings and challenges. For instance, it is common for students to reflect upon their experience abroad and in the process reassess their thoughts on their own culture and country. A good step is to seek out a friend or family member who will genuinely listen to you. Here are a few ideas on how to go about processing and discussing your experience abroad:
Seek Out Fellow Travelers and Past Participants
Being able to share common concerns and coping strategies with other returnees may help reduce the frustration that can accompany re-entry. It helps to find at least one other person with whom you can discuss the sensation of reverse culture shift.
Read about Re-adjustment
Recognize that reverse culture shift is a normal part of studying abroad. This will help you avoid feelings of guilt that might occur if you are feeling depressed or unhappy about being home. Remind yourself that readjustment is a natural psychological process when confronted with change and cannot be denied.
Share Your Feelings
Educate your family and friends about this phase of adjustment. Some people have never heard of reverse culture shift. If the people around you are informed of what you are experiencing, more than likely, they will be more patient and understanding. If you have difficulty communicating your feelings, it may a good idea to share this section of the student guide with your family and friends.
Stay in Contact with Your Host Culture
Keep in contact with the friends you made in your host country through telephone calls, email, letters, or social media. It will help you feel that what you experienced was real and meaningful.
Continue to Keep a Journal
Continuing to write in your journal about your experience abroad can be a healthy source self-therapy upon return. It is important to reflect on your memories and one of the best ways to do this is to pour your feeling out on paper.
Change and Adaptation
You may notice that after returning from your study abroad experience, you have achieved personal growth, gained new insights into your own culture, made new friendships, acquired a new understanding of the issues facing the world, and possible developed new language skills. This is all great! At the same time, you may also become critical of practices that you once took for granted in your home country. You may find that being at home again cannot match what you have just experienced abroad. Surprisingly, you may even feel awkward speaking English again if you developed other language skills. As a result, you could feel lonely and restless.
Family and Friends
Just as it was difficult adapting to a different way of life abroad, you may now find it difficult fitting in the same way you used to with your friends and family. This may be especially true if you were away for an extended period of time (a semester or a year). As you recognize that a gap exists, you may feel as if you lost part of what you once had in common with those closest to you, and you may lack the support system that you may need upon returning home. You will likely want to share many stories and newfound knowledge from your time abroad, but they may not always be responsive, simply because they have not partaken in the same experience as you have. The people that knew you before your study abroad experience may also be unprepared for the changes in your values and lifestyles. Remember that your family and friends have also had new experiences while you have been gone. Take the time to listen to their stories as well.
The experience of learning within a different education system and cultural environment has a liberating and confidence-building effect. The academic independence that you build abroad will give you more motivation to increase your standard level of achievements as well as help you to appreciate new perspectives on particular subjects.
Students returning from an abroad program will be required to attend a re-entry orentation with their Study Abroad Advisor. In addition, this orentation will focus on helping the student re-adjust back in America.
Part of this requirement also entails the 1 Credit Capstone Project that students are registered for.
Completion of this project is mandatory and will be graded. Information about the capstone will be discussed during the Re-Entry Session.
This is a 1-credit course where students will reflect on their experience while abroad. Any student who participated in WOU Study Abroad will be required to take this course when they return from their abroad program. In addition, this course is designed to help students re-adjust to their home environment after returning.
Capstone Project Syllabus
You can find the Capstone Project course syllabus here.
A digital story will be created for the course. This digital story will be a brief glimpse into a students experience studying abroad. Students will explain why they decided to choose the program they did, the sights they saw, and the friendships they made a long the way. You can find the digital story assignment instructions here and the rubric here
Students will be tasked with creating or updating their resume to include their study abroad and multi-cultural experience. You can find the resume assignment instructions here.
In the event that students will meet their credit and course requirements to graduate from their abroad experience. Here is some important information to note.
You should not plan to graduate the same term/semester in which you plan to study abroad. The study abroad credit evaluation process can take several weeks/months when students take courses directly from a university/institution abroad.
You should plan to graduate at least one term after the end of your study abroad program. For example, if your study abroad program finishes at the end of spring term, plan to graduate in summer or fall term.