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Students digging a hole abroad

International Experience

For many students, study abroad is only the beginning of a lifetime of engaged interest in all things international. Many return home and want to expand upon their international experience while at UT as well as after they finish their degree.

Similar to the cultural adjustment many students feel when arriving in a foreign country, it is common to experience stages of reverse cultural shock when returning home from study abroad.

You might feel out of place or changed by your experience in a way that makes relating to family and friends difficult. It may take some time to feel at home again. Use patience to ease the transition.

Common Re-Entry Experiences

  • Impression that you can’t fully explain your experience or its importance.
  • Realization that others do not want to hear very much about your adventures.
  • Sensation of being out of place despite being home.
  • Boredom with being home.
  • Experiencing homesickness for the place where you studied abroad.
  • Seeing that relationships with family and friends have changed.
  • Feeling that others misunderstand your growth.
  • Assessing your home in a way that is judgmental or overly critical.
  • Feeling that your experience abroad is lost or cut off from the rest of your life.

Tips for Coping

  • Try to use the same cultural adaptation skills that you developed while you were getting used to being abroad (e.g., keep active, maintain a sense of humor, find a support group, expect differences, allow yourself to make mistakes, stay flexible) to make the transition to being home.
  • Be reflective. Give some thought to your return, to the types of intellectual and emotional changes that you have undergone as a result of your time abroad.
  • Expect some negative feelings about your home culture. Try not to be too critical of shortcomings that you did not see before. Remember, there are positive and negative aspects of all cultures—nothing is good or bad, it’s just different.
  • Accentuate the positive. Try to identify what you like about both cultures and try to incorporate the best aspects of these into your life.
  • Be patient with your friends and family who are trying to understand your recent experiences. Listen to them, too.
  • Maintain connections with international life through the many opportunities available at the UT.
  • Set goals for your development. Realize that change can be stimulating and this could be your chance to develop in new directions. Set some long-term goals, which may involve finding ways to return abroad.

Additional Resources for Reflection:

Do you know how to describe and market your education abroad experience for future academic and professional opportunities? UT’s Center for Career Development has resources on resumes and cover letters as well as interview tips that will help you articulate how your experience prepared you to achieve future goals. You can also schedule a meeting with a career adviser to talk through how to present your international experience to potential employers and graduate schools.

Spotlight Skills and Attributes

Employers will look for “transferable skills” in your cover letter, resume, and interview. As you reflect on your experience abroad, did you:

  • Do a specific project or research applicable to your field of interest while abroad?
  • Travel independently?
  • Learn to work with a more diverse group of people than you had previously been exposed to?
  • Resolve a conflict based on misunderstandings of cultural differences?
  • Learn new activities, languages, or skills?
  • Discover something new about yourself that can relate to the position you are seeking?
  • Volunteer or participate in an internship or service learning project while abroad?

Your answers are the start to identifying the specific transferable skills you list on your resume and cover letter, or the particular examples you use in an interview. You will want to effectively communicate not only skills and experiences, but how those abilities will benefit the program or organization to which you are applying. Remember, just mentioning you studied abroad is not enough. You should elaborate on the skills developed during your time abroad.

Here is a list of skills and attributes you may have developed while studying abroad:

  • Adaptability
  • Appreciation of differences and cultures
  • Creativity
  • Crisis management
  • Enthusiasm
  • Foreign language proficiency
  • Increased understanding of global, economic, and political matters
  • Independence
  • Initiative
  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Listening and observing
  • Organization
  • Patience
  • Perseverance
  • Relationship building skills
  • Resource management
  • Responsibility
  • Time management

Additional Resources:

Students are not limited to one education abroad program during their UT career. However, we do not recommend that students study abroad during their graduating semester. For a second program abroad, students must meet with their academic advisor to ensure that study abroad classes will work in their degree plan and will not delay graduation (unless desired).

For funding, UT study abroad scholarships vary according to college and department; national scholarships have varying requirements as well. Visit the Using Current Scholarships and Funding Opportunities pages on this website for more information.

Graduate School Abroad

Many foreign universities offer graduate programs that are open to students not native to that country. You can earn advanced degrees in almost any field from art to science to business while living abroad. If this is something you want to explore, talk with your professors and departmental advisers about finding a program that meets your academic goals. In addition, these online resources can assist you in your search:

  • Across the Pond (For students interested in earning a graduate degree in the UK)
  • MastersPortal (Comprehensive search of master’s degree programs in countries all over the world)

Working Abroad

Many students use their study abroad experience as a stepping stone to an international career post-graduation. There are many resources available to help students who are interested in teaching English abroad or finding a job in another country or with an international company based in the United States. Here are a few helpful resources:

Volunteer Abroad

Academic credit is extremely rare for volunteer positions and may or may not be eligible for financial aid. These positions do not generally require specific skill or previous experience, just a willingness to engage and give back. Here are a few resources on volunteer opportunities abroad.

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