Reflections on the Study Abroad Experience
Returning home from a semester or year abroad can give you an excellent opportunity to ponder changes in your perspectives on your host culture, your home culture, and yourself. Below are some questions which may assist you in learning more about the new you. If you kept a journal while abroad, you may gain some insights into these changes by re-reading your entries:
About the host culture:
- What have I learned while in the host culture(s) that I did not know previously? How has this changed my view of the host culture(s)?
- What was I able to learn about different aspects of the host culture(s) including non-academic areas - e.g., how are children and the elderly treated in the host culture(s)?
- What stereotypes did I have of the host culture(s) before I lived there? Have these changed in any way?
- Did I pick up any new stereotypes or biases? Are they valid?
- If I studied a language, how has that changed my views of the host culture(s)? Is my language study complete or do I need to study it further in order to perfect my language skills and understand the culture?
- What can I do to continue deepening my understanding of the host culture(s)?
About your home culture:
- How have my attitudes about my home culture changed? What has caused these changes?
- By being abroad and able to compare my culture with a different culture(s), what have I learned about the history, values and traditions that make up my home culture?
- What can I do to continue deepening my understanding of my home culture?
- How have I changed during the sojourn abroad? Do I feel more confident, independent or cosmopolitan? How can I express these changes to my friends and family in a non-threatening manner?
- What new skills do I possess? For example: knowledge of a different culture(s), adaptation skills, second-language proficiency, creative problem-solving, tolerance, increased human relations skills, etc.
- In what ways can I apply what I learned abroad for personal, academic or career-related development?
- How have my personal values changed because of my study abroad experience?
Helpful Tips for Reentry
Reentry, or reverse culture shock, is a very common reaction to returning home from studying abroad. It can range from feeling that no one understands how you've changed, to feeling panicked that you will lose part of your identity if you don't have an outlet to pursue new interests that were sparked abroad. As you go through this transition period, you may find the following tips helpful:
• Your reactions surrounding reentry may include one or more of the following symptoms: restlessness, boredom, depression, uncertainty, confusion, isolation, wanting to be alone, missing the people, places, attitudes or lifestyle of your host country, changes in goals and priorities, negativity or intolerance towards the U.S., including American behavior, attitudes, customs and common social practice.
• This process is much like the culture shock you may have experienced when you first went abroad. Similar to having to adjust when you go to another country, you must make some adjustments coming home, too. The coping skills and strategies that were successful in helping you adjust to your host culture will be just as helpful coming home: get involved, identify a support group of other study abroad students, suspend judgment until you understand a situation, keep a journal, and always keep a sense of humor.
• You may recognize that many of your values and beliefs have changed. Learn to incorporate new and meaningful values and beliefs in your life.
• Understand that your friendships and relationships might change as a function of your new experiences. Explore new places and people with whom you can share your international experiences.
• Accept the reality that reentry is a time of transition! Learn ways to take care of yourself and ease into your surroundings.
Read about Reentry & Reverse Culture Shock
The more you know, the better prepared you will be to deal with it!
• Reentry or Coming "Home" Again (University of Colorado at Boulder)
Lift Your Morale
• Host a program reunion with your fellow returnees
• Create a photo album or website about your semester or year abroad
• Read the local news from your host country on-line
• Enjoy a cappuccino or latte or cook some of your favorite food from your study site
Grades & Transcripts
At the end of your semester or year abroad, the foreign host institution or sponsoring organization will send a transcript with your final courses and grades to International Studies International Studies at Notre Dame. Most foreign institutions take a considerable amount of time to process transcripts and it is not unusual for study abroad grades to arrive at our office long after the semester has ended. You should expect a delay in grade reporting of at least 6 - 8 weeks after your program ends.
International Studies will promptly process your grades and credits and submit them to the Notre Dame Registrar's Office. The Registrar will then record and post this information on your ND academic record.
1) My grades from abroad haven't been posted yet. Why? Before contacting International Studies or the Registrar, ask yourself: "Has it been more than 6 - 8 weeks since I've returned from my program?" If not, please be patient. Many foreign universities take awhile to process grades and then the transcript is sent by mail.
2) Help! I need to send an updated transcript to [my insurance company, scholarship committee, graduate school] and my grades from abroad have not been reported yet! Unfortunately, we cannot do anything to speed up the processing of transcripts from abroad. However, our office will gladly write a letter on your behalf, verifying that you recently participated in a Notre Dame study abroad program and that the grades have not yet arrived, with an assurance that your updated transcript will be processed as soon as it becomes available. This letter will usually suffice to give you an extension on transcript deadlines.
3) I looked at my posted grades and there is a problem with a grade. Whom do I contact? You should contact your program director at International Studies and also the professor who assigned the final grade or the Academic Director at your host institution.
4) I am applying to Graduate School and they require an official copy of my transcript from the abroad institution. How can I get this? Your courses and grades from abroad will appear on your official Notre Dame transcript which you can request from the ND Registrar. However, if you need a transcript from the actual foreign host institution, you can contact International Studies or contact the abroad institution directly.
5) How can I get an official Notre Dame transcript with my grades from abroad?
Go to the Registrar's website and fill in the transcript request form on-line.