2.3.2 - If You Have Returned Home from Abroad

 

If You Have Recently Returned Home from Abroad

 

Anticipation and Expectation Exercise D

PLEASE READ THIS PAGE AND DO THE FOLLOWING SELF-EVALUATION EXERCISE ON ANTICIPATION AND EXPECTATIONS BEFORE YOU GO FURTHER.

If you are entering this web site because you have recently returned home from a study abroad program, we congratulate you on participating in an exciting process only 1% of US-American college students take advantage of! Part of what this resource tries to do is to examine how one’s personal background and cultural values will affect, in part, how you perceive others who think and behave differently, and how they may have perceived you. But in addition, we hope that by going through some self-reflective exercises at various stages of your journey, you can gain additional insights into the kinds of personal changes a study abroad program can bring about. This is particularly true in terms of one’s perceptions about the self and others both before and after a period of intense cross-cultural exposure.

 

What we ask you to do is to write your own personal responses to the questions below. Be as honest as you can be. Your responses should reflect how you feel right now as you are going through the readjustment process. When you are finished, either print them out and put them in a place you can retrieve them at a later time or save them on a computer. 

 

We will refer to them in later sections dealing with readjusting after reentry, where you will be given the opportunity to think about and compare your answers to this Anticipation and Expectation exercise.

We believe taking this exercise seriously will eventually assist you to better gauge how the process of overseas adaptation has played out for you personally. So take a few minutes and fill out the following questions. We promise it will be worth your effort.

  

  1. The five things that have bothered me most about being home are:

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

 

  1. The five things I have enjoyed most about being home are:

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

 

  1. The five international things (people, places, situations, etc.) I miss the least since I have returned home are:

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

  1. The five things (people, places, activities, etc.) I miss most from abroad since I have returned home are:

  1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

 

 

Commentary: What One Might Learn from a Comparison of Answers  

You made a list some time ago (in the Anticipation and Expectation Exercise C) on the basis of what you anticipated things would be like when you returned home. You can now directly compare what you thought it would be like to your new list of what it has actually been like. There are a number of things that such a comparison might suggest: 

  1. Sometimes there are substantial differences between what one expected overseas study to be like and how it actually turned out. For example, things you worried about and thought were going to cause problems or be difficult to deal with, turn out not to have been as big a challenge as you anticipated. Reentry has similar potential pitfalls because most students assume that going home will be a stress-free and completely natural event. This is often not true. Unlike entering another culture where what you feared would be your greatest challenge sometimes turned out to be far less of an issue than something you had no idea about before you left home, most returnees are completely unaware of how difficult a return home can be. Having absolutely no concern about coming back home can lead to more problems upon return than were experienced abroad. Reentry can become a problem precisely because it often comes out of left field and blindsides a returnee.
  1. Sometimes the things we are looking forward to overseas the most can fail to transpire or are less enjoyable or interesting than we had originally believed they would be. In reentry, people often are unrealistic about how they and others will react to their coming home. 
  1. Just like being overseas, where daily life abroad can be magic one day and really trying the next, so can reentry seem once back home. Our flawed projections about what overseas life was going to be like before we went abroad were often paralleled to some extent in our preconceptions of reentry. Just as confronting reality once abroad, although painful, often leads to personal growth and a far deeper understanding and appreciation of things cultural, so can the struggle to readjust and readapt to US-American life after an significant study abroad experience. Check your two lists of pre-reentry and post-reentry and see to what extent they are congruent and to what extent they are somewhat different lists.
  1. Looking back upon our pre-departure aspirations and preconceptions can be a bit embarrassing because we can see rather clearly how little experiential knowledge we had and how much some of our goals and expectations were naïve projections rather than realistic aspirations. Reentry also has a learning curve that requires a slightly different approach. Reentering one’s own country can be unsettling because you and your perceptions have been altered by your international experiences, and returnees often see the familiar as “strange,” like seeing something old as “new” for the first time. It often takes a while to adapt to the “new lenses” we have acquired overseas.
  1. Comparing pre-and post-sojourn perceptions is a good way to become more sensitive to the role preconceptions play, not only in study abroad but in any of life’s many transitions. Knowing why and how such preconceptions can influence our satisfaction with our experiences will enable us to make more judicious judgments and lower any tendency to indulge in premature and unrealistic expectations in the future.
  1. If there is any one lesson to be gained, it might be that to the extent to which one can resist the tendency make too many preliminary judgments about “how things will be” in transition situations like study abroad, the more satisfied one might be about the outcome. Someone once said: Unrealistic Expectations = Premature Disappointments! As always, we advise students to allow experiences to unfold and be open and flexible, including applying what you have learned about adjustment when contemplating issues involved in returning home.
  1. Think about the points above as you compare your own lists and then consider:

 

HOW MIGHT ANY OF THIS APPLY TO MY FUTURE EXPECTATIONS ABOUT MY LIFE AFTER GRADUATION AND THE SIGNIFICANT CHANGES I CAN PROBABLY EXPECT AS PART OF MY PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL LIFE? HOW CAN I APPLY THE SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE I GAINED AS PART OF STUDY ABROAD IN ALL THE IMPORTANT AREAS OF MY LIFE AND FUTURE TRANSITIONS?

 

 

 


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