You've met wonderful people, had a chance to travel, and have come to understand your own culture, your host culture, and yourself in ways you may have never imagined.

Along the way there were times when you felt lonely, ran out of money, could not understand French or Spanish or (American English), and wondered why you even considered studying abroad.

The challenge now is to integrate the exhilarating and the exhausting, the miraculous and the mundane. You are back home and you probably have some ambiguous feelings about that. Don't worry, everyone else shares them—and there's a name for this: re-entry shock.

Coming home is a period of adjustment to your home culture and of the integration into your life of what you have learned abroad. Students cope with re-entry at various levels.

Family

You may be expected to fit back into your family but find it difficult to communicate effectively because your family has not shared your experiences overseas. Your family may have difficulty adjusting to your new-found independence and changed values.

Share your experience with your family (photos, stories, etc.) and let them know how much you appreciate the opportunity they have given you to grow in new ways.

Friends

You and your friends may not feel as close as you once were. You need to be sensitive about discussing your experience with them. You may also miss the friends you made overseas.

Ask about and listen to what they have experienced while you were away. Ask to be brought up to date on local events. Try and do new things together to get the relationship on a new footing.

School

You may see your campus in a new light. You may also miss the feeling of being part of a close-knit group of students.

Talk about your academic experience with your advisor, especially if you are considering new career goals. Seek out the Rinker Center to learn about meeting international students on campus. Talk with the study-abroad advisor about volunteering to spend time with students who are planning to study abroad. Seek out other students who have studied abroad — you are not alone.

Country

Your home culture may no longer be entirely to your liking and you may have the sense that you no longer fit in. In the future, you will probably continue to evaluate ideas and events in the context of the broader cultural perspective you have acquired.

Come to terms with the fact that we all tend to look past the shortcomings of our home culture when we are away and to criticize it on the basis of changed perspectives when we return. Make friends with people interested in international or intercultural affairs. Keep up with news of your host country through reading online newspapers, magazines, etc.

Self

You have become accustomed to a high level of activity and anticipation that your home and campus cannot possibly match. You may feel restless or a bit depressed for a while after you return.

Recuperate from the physical journey. Think over the ways you have changed: What did you learn about yourself? How have your family and friends reacted? Keep a journal so that you can see how your thoughts evolve over time. Talk with other returning students who may feel the same way.

Study Abroad Fair

Each year, the Rinker Center hosts a study abroad fair during the fall semester. Returnees are encouraged to help with this event. We can show glossy brochures and fancy program descriptions, but nothing compares to real-life students sharing their personal experiences.

This is the time to bring out the photos, cool souvenirs, scrapbooks, or whatever else you have gathered. You can spend time at a booth talking to students, help set up tables, or even plan a related event.

In the past we had art exhibits, panel discussions, and musical performances put on by returnees.

Contact the Rinker Center for more information.

Culture Exchange

Every Wednesday, there are sessions in the Rinker Center showcasing different cultures. Feel free to attend and talk with other students who are international or have traveled internationally.

How to Market Your Study Abroad Experience

Among the many benefits of studying abroad, your international experience will attract employers and will be an asset to your job search. You should include this experience on your résumé, and perhaps refer to it in your cover letter, portfolio, and job interviews.

Experiences in other countries offer opportunities for personal growth and exploration as well as the opportunity to build valuable skills and traits that will enhance your ability to compete as a top job candidate. However, you need to communicate the impact and value of your experience to potential employers.

What Types of Skills and Attributes are Developed through Studying Abroad?

The skills and attributes gained while studying abroad are as diverse and varied as each individual's study-abroad experience. The following list offers examples of skills often developed through living in other countries:

  • communication skills (including listening and overcoming language barriers)
  • foreign language skills
  • global point of view, appreciation of diversity, tolerance, cultural awareness, and sensitivity to customs and cultural differences
  • flexibility and adaptability
  • motivation and initiative
  • organizational and time-management skills
  • ability to identify, set, and achieve goals
  • general travel and navigational skills
  • problem-solving and crisis-management skills
  • patience
  • independence, self-reliance, and responsibility
  • perseverance
  • inquisitiveness
  • assertiveness

Where Should I Include Study-Abroad Experience on My Résumé?

Ways to incorporate your experience on your résumé vary. Here are some general guidelines to help you get started:

  • If you participated in a study program and attended classes abroad, you can list the experience in your “Education” section.
  • If you gained practical work experience while abroad, such as an internship, part-time job, or practicum, you can list it in a “Work Experience,” “Internship Experience,” or “Career-Related Experience” category.
  • You can also include study- and work-abroad programs in a separate category titled “International Experience,” “International Education,” etc. This option may be the most appropriate if you've had multiple experiences abroad.
  • Be sure to include accomplishment statements and mention the key skills you developed through these experiences.

Should I Discuss My Study-Abroad Experience in My Cover Letter or during Job Interviews?

The key to writing a great cover letter and preparing for a job interview is to match your skills and abilities to the needs of the employer.

In most cases, international experience will be attractive to employers — you will need to determine what skills will enable you to sell yourself best.

Use your cover letter to highlight one or two of your top skills or attributes and refer to your travel experience if appropriate. Your cover letter should spark employers’ interest and direct them to your résumé for additional information about your qualifications.

As you get ready for job interviews, prepare stories that highlight your skill set and reflect on several experiences from your past, including studying abroad.

What if I need additional help?

The Career Center offers resources to help you develop your résumé, cover letter, and portfolio, as well as prepare for job interviews.

For assistance, please visit the Career Center during drop-in advising hours, or visit the Career Center’s website to access tip sheets, helpful websites, and other job search resources.

Use the Career Center’s services.