Returning to USM after a study abroad experience can be both fun and challenging. It is exciting to see your family and friends again and share your experiences and photos. Returning home also has its challenges, better known as reverse culture shock. Reverse culture shock is the process of getting re-acquainted with your life at home. Sometimes culture shock is more difficult than the culture shock you felt while you were overseas.
One of the greatest challenges in coming home is finding that your friends and family may not be as enthusiastic about your experiences as you are about them. It is common for people to ask you about your experience and then lose their attention after one or two stories. A good way to counter this is by seeking out other students on campus who have studied abroad. They will understand what you have experienced and how studying abroad changed you. They will also be more willing to hear all of your stories, just as you will be interested to hear all of their stories.
It also common to feel a sense of loss. You may feel sad that you have had this life-changing experience, but you did not get to experience it with your family and friends. You may also have a tough time connecting with your family and friends initially because you've changed and their lives have likely remained the same while you were gone. You may miss friends that you made while overseas. It is okay to feel loss. Remember that USM has counseling services where you can speak with a professional counselor who can help you deal with grief and re-adjusting to life at home. If you have paid the health fee, you are entitled to 12 individual counseling sessions and should take advantage of this service!
There are several ways to keep your international experience alive. You can join one of the many international organizations on campus or international organizations in the Southern Maine area. You can meet international students here at USM and help them get oriented. You can also take a class that has an international focus or continue your language studies. You can enroll in a travel course to go back overseas. Go to the New England Study Abroad Reentry Conference. This conference is open to any student from New England who spent time abroad.
International Organizations in Southern Maine
- Camden Conference
- Chinese & American Friendship Association of Maine
- Japan-America Society of Maine
- Let Cuba Live
- Maine World Affairs Council
- Maine International Trade Center
- Partners for Rural Health in the Dominican Republic
- Rotary International Club of Portland, Maine
- Seeds of Peace International Camp
- UNE Center for Global Humanities
- United Nations Association of Maine
- Working Villages International
- Life After Study Abroad: a website with resorces and content geared towards students returning home from abroad.
- ISA Career Resources Guide (PDF)
- ISA Re-Entry Guide (PDF)