2.5.2 - Remaining Time in School
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.
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.
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
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,
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.
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,
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.
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.
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!