Module 2 - Welcome Back! Now What?


Leave Taking and Reentry - Saying Proper Goodbyes and Coming Home!


The four sections in this module are intended to help study abroad students to bring culturally appropriate closure to their sojourn while still abroad and to prepare them for their homecoming. The sections provide knowledge and advice that have proven useful to students as they anticipate making the reentry transition. Module 2 is designed to raise topics, pose questions, and stimulate students to think seriously about not only how “home” has changed, but how the study abroad experience has affected and changed them.

The sections also provide some exercises to help a returnee figure out what they learned while abroad, and some suggestions about how to use intercultural skills in on-going everyday life at school and at home. The individual section headings and a very brief description of their content are listed below. We encourage learners to browse all four to get some idea of how the material is presented.

Important Advice for Students in Pre-Reentry Phase (about to return home)

If you are within a month or a few weeks of your return to the United States, we recommend that you pay immediate attention to Section 2.1 of Module 2 on proper ways to say your goodbyes. Then examine the remaining three sections before you leave your study abroad program and come home.

Important Advice for Students in Post-Reentry Phase (having returned home):

If you have already returned home you may prefer to begin at Section 2.3 of Module 2.


Section 2.1 - Winding Down: Preparing to Come Home

This section is about capturing memories and saying a proper "Good-bye" while still overseas. As your journey begins to draw to a close, there are a number of simple but important things you can, and should, do to make sure you bring proper closure to your study abroad adventure. 

Section 2.2 - If You are Preparing to Return Home Soon

Part of what this resource tries to do is to examine how one’s personal background and cultural values effects, in part, how you have perceived others who think and behave differently and how they may have perceived you.

Section 2.3 - Back Home: Neither Here nor There

People seldom prepare for the return experience because they expect it to be easy and are surprised when it is not. This section discusses the reality that returning home after a significant overseas experience can be stressful. Unlike initial culture shock overseas, "reentry shock" or "reverse culture shock" may take one by surprise. Not only does the returnee often fail to anticipate such a reaction, but it is compounded by the fact that family or friends seldom recognize the symptoms of reverse culture shock. Four factors discussed here include: 1) why reentry is largely unexpected; 2) how the reality of home is likely to differ from memory; 3) ways to deal with changed circumstances and relationships at home; and 4) how to manage reactions at home when people treat returnees in ways they consider inappropriate.

Section 2.4 - What Did You Learn Abroad?

Few students are actually aware of the degree to which the overseas experience may have changed their way of thinking and acting. Many of these changes are subtle and unconscious. Still, they represent cross-cultural skills or attitudes that may have been acquired as a part of their sojourn. Usually, it takes a while after returning from study abroad to realize the full extent of the impact of study abroad. This section offers a self-assessment exercise, Seventy-five Positive Long-term Outcomes from an International Experience , which can help a returnee focus on identifying some of these newly acquired skills. Suggestions about how to integrate these as part of a student resume are provided.

Section 2.5 - Say no to "Shoeboxing"!!!

Returning study abroad students report that one common, and regrettable, result of resuming everyday life after returning home is the tendency to "shoe box" the international experience. This can have two related meanings. One is to literally put your mementos (letters, ticket stubs, photos, brochures, etc.) in a box and put it away to be taken out and looked at when you feel the need to reconnect with or relive your experience. The other meaning is to mentally compartmentalize the experience as a completely or largely separate part of your college experience. This section will give you some reasons not to shoebox the experience. Ways you can continue to learn from your study abroad experience are suggested, including ideas on how to apply the lessons learned abroad to a wide variety of current social, academic, professional, and personal contexts.