2.5.2 - Remaining Time in School

 

Remaining Time in School

 

Making the most of your remaining time in school is important. So are finding ways for you to use the knowledge you have brought back and the new perspectives you have acquired. The following checklists should give you a start on how to accomplish this crucial step.

Academic courses
  • Courses, of course! To the extent possible, select remaining courses that will build upon the overseas experience and both deepen and broaden your knowledge. Doing so can provide you the opportunity to apply your newly gained understanding and skills in relevant areas in such diverse disciplines as history, political science, sociology, anthropology, international development, art, area studies, economics, etc.,  

  • If involved in English or Journalism courses, write an account of some important aspect of your study abroad as part of a class assignment. If you like the effort, offer the article to the school newspaper or submit it to a local newspaper because they are often looking for local human-interest stories. Even if you are not currently required to write about your experience you can try your hand at being a free-lance author. Guest editorials, Personal Opinion sections, Travel sections, and First-Hand Experience types of newspaper formats are potential places to begin.

  • Your school may have a Speakers Bureau where you can register what topics and areas you have an interest in and about which you would be willing to make public presentations. Such audiences are always appreciative of opportunities to hear about new places and people.

  • Study abroad offices on campus may sponsor an occasional forum where a group of students can discuss their time overseas and answer audience questions. If your school has orientation or cross-cultural training courses for students before they go overseas, you could volunteer to give a short talk to them about things you think they should know before they go abroad or even act as a student teaching assistant. International offices are always looking for volunteer help and most would welcome such offers. It is an excellent way to apply your new skills and knowledge and a benefit to outbound students.

  • Many schools have experiential learning components in their curriculum or offices that will arrange internships for academic credit. Since many communities have both businesses and non-profit organizations that could use such experienced student assistance, this is a natural avenue to explore as part of your post-return adaptation. Businesses that deal in or with international marketing, import-export, commodity exchanges, cargo carriers and shippers, etc., are possible candidates, especially those in joint-ventures or who are part of multi-national corporations. Non-profits include refugee and resettlement agencies, cross-cultural health care agencies, local charity or immigrant centers, micro-banking and development organizations, legal aid, literacy and work-preparation programs, and much more. All of these can be good additions to a resume as well providing personal satisfaction. Such experience is also attractive to future employers.

Language
  • Obviously, consider continuing language learning begun abroad or begin a new language.

  • Find opportunities for using language skills such as tutoring children or adults in the language, translating simple documents, volunteering as a teaching assistant or language lab assistant.

  • Continue to correspond with your home stay family, host culture nationals, and foreign friends in the language.

  • Subscribe to foreign language media (newspapers, magazines, newsletters). Many embassies and consulates offer such material for free or at nominal cost.

  • Use the internet to maintain contact with networks of friends overseas and utilize foreign language chat lines or to cultivate cyber-"pen pals."

  • Seek out foreign language broadcasts available on cable channels or through a satellite program such as SCOLA and watch 30 minutes to an hour a day in the language to maintain aural competency.

  • Explore what extracurricular language opportunities there are available on campus. These may include language clubs, language tables in dining rooms, partnering with an international student who speaks your target language, living in an international dorm with international students, seeking an international student as a roommate, acting as a participant (or judge) in a foreign language speech contest, etc.

On-campus opportunities

  • Offer to organize a film series of modern classics in foreign languages you are familiar with for the student union or a modern language department.

  • Contact your campus international student office and offer your services as a "contact person" for incoming foreign students before they get to campus and for a few weeks thereafter. This can be done very effectively through the Internet.

  • Consider becoming an academic "Mentor" or student advisor for an international student if your institution has such programs.

  • If your campus has an International Students Association attend a meeting and meet some members. You may find that you will have much more in common with them as a result of your own study abroad experience than you might suppose.

Community organizations
  • Volunteer at local secondary education institutions to talk to history, international studies, and government classes about your overseas experience. Schools are always looking for interesting outside speakers for the classroom and assemblies.

  • A good outlet for your slides, videos, and other media could be a local organization who is interested in “Traveler's Tales” where you could combine your pictures with a narrative of your experiences. Sometimes these are associated with photography or travel book stores but they are also found at local library branches, senior citizen organizations, adventure sports stores, etc.

  • Join a local chapter of a national language organization such as Alliance Francais, Goethe Society, Japan Society, etc.  

  • Seek opportunities to act as a cultural bridge for community-based organizations involved in international exchange such as Sister Cities Associations, Kiwanis, and Rotary Club. You might volunteer to translate for, or host, short-term international visitors.

  • Organizations such as Youth for Understand and American Field Service are devoted to international and intercultural exchanges for high school students and are constantly looking for local trainers, mentors, and resource persons. They provide an excellent opportunity for you to play a very direct role in helping young people make the most of their overseas sojourns and the return home.

  • A wide range of local non-profit organizations from Women’s Centers to migrant or immigrant assistance programs are always looking for individuals with intercultural skills and experience, especially if they have some capacity in the language(s) of their clients. Internships, paid and unpaid, can often be arranged.

Daily life practices
  • Become aware of and seek to apply cross-cultural skills in your everyday interactions.

  • Cultivate intercultural sensitivity, especially across racial, religious, and socio-economic lines. Be aware of difference and how you evaluate and react to it.

  • Try new experiences at home in the same spirit you once did abroad. You could try new ethnic restaurants or cuisines you are not familiar with (and, of course, if possible, find a good restaurant which serves food you came to appreciate overseas). Or you might attend a holiday celebration or public event of a group you know little about (e.g., Hmong New Year, Vietnamese Tet, Sikh Baisaki, Hindu Holi). Respectful and curious visitors are always welcome.
  • Push your comfort zone. Keep trying to find new ways to view the world, new ways to experience human culture, and new ways to interact with those who are culturally different from you. If you look for it there is often as much cultural diversity in domestic contexts as there was abroad, but it may be a bit harder to see at home because most people once home operate within a relatively restricted and narrow set of social situations compared to their adventures overseas.

  • Consider seeing more of the United States. US-American students returning from overseas often realize how little familiarity they have of the tremendous geographic and cultural diversity within their own country. Now would be a good time to start to explore and experience that regional richness.

This list is only a small sample of the many ways in which you can apply your overseas knowledge and experiences as you approach graduation. Of course, some students decide that overseas travel, work, and study is not only fun but something they want to do much more of, perhaps even considering a career abroad. A few students even go abroad a second time on study abroad. Whatever the result of your study abroad experience, we hope the information provided here helped you prepare for the adventure of going overseas and the readjustment of coming home. Wherever you are headed we wish you Bon Voyage!

 


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