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Coming Home


The proper traveler… thinks it a waste to move from his own home if nothing happens inside him as a result.  I mean something fundamental, like a chemical change when two substances come into contact.

                                         Freya Stark, Letters

Coming Home or "Re-Entry" after a semester abroad is more of a challenge than most students expect. Some students find it even more difficult than adjusting to life abroad.

Here are a few of the most common re-entry challenges :
  • Boredom. Old familiar routines are dull. Yawn! Ho Hum.
  • “No One Wants to Hear” about your experience.
  • You Can’t Explain your experiences, much less your feelings.
  • Reverse “Homesickness” and nostalgia.
  • Relationships Have Changed since you left.
  • Friends and Family See “Wrong” Changes in you and are upset.
  • Communication is difficult; and People Misunderstand.
  • Feelings of Alienation and Being Critical of home society.
  • Inability to Apply New Knowledge & Skills.
  • Sense of Loss of the relevance  and even the compartmentalization of your experience.

Choosing a Good Re-Entry

Just as with culture stress on the out-going side, you want to pay attention what's going on inside. This is the time when students can do some of their most important work and learn the most from their semester abroad.
  • Compose different versions of your story. This process will help you clarify what was important and meaninful (and WHY!) about your experience abroad. Think about answering specific questions. What you focus on will differ depending upon the audience you have in mind (i.e. the friend from whom you feel distant vs your faculty mentor).
  • Personal (for family & friends): What did you value about the semester? Why was it important to you? How have you changed and why is that important to you and your goals?
  • Professional (for faculty and business settings): What intercultural skills did you acquire that are important to you? What particular part of your study-abroad experience relates to your discipline or future goals?
  • Invest yourself in the international. Get involved by volunteering with an international organization like Refugee Immigration Ministry (RIM) Or get involved with a Merrimack student group that focuses on the international. Keep in touch with your host family and friends.
  • Cultivate curiosity. Keep up your work in your foreign language. Read the international news from your host country and explore.
  • Be proactive. If you continue to feel alienated or isolated, contact the Hamel Health Center.
  • Be a mentor. Consider being a mentor through the GEO for other students interested in global education. Host a coffee house for FYE at the GEO's Red House.
Here are a few resources you may find helpful:
  • Check out the blog on Life After Study Abroad. It has essays from students like you (you might want to contribute an essay of your own) who are making sense of life after. Great articles and ideas.
  • Craig Storti's The Art of Coming Home has some helpful information.