Studying abroad is great, returning is not


To go abroad, or not to go abroad? That is the question. As someone who has recently returned from the London intersession program, I highly recommend students take advantage of the great programs. However, returning home from abroad has its downfalls, which the University of San Diego does not help smooth over. The transition of returning from abroad to USD is so abrupt, in fact, you might just forget the difference between the IPJ and the JCP.

For the 2014-2015 school year, USD’s Office of International Studies Abroad reported that 575 undergraduate students made the decision to study abroad. According to the Institute of International Education, USD is ranked as the second leading study abroad program in the country.

Since 2009, 86 percent of undergraduate students have chosen to study abroad; either during a semester long program, an intersession, or summer program.

USD highly prides itself on its numerous international programs. And these programs don’t disappoint. The only disappointment takes place upon return.

Whether you are coming back from Semester at Sea, Second Year Experience, or a semester in Florence, returning back to reality is not always easy for a variety of reasons.

First off, you are leaving a place you were fully immersed into, you are in a completely different time-zone and returning from intersession abroad only gives you two or three days to adjust before jumping into the spring semester.

It can be difficult to make a smooth transition from living in another country to returning home given all these conditions. USD makes sure its students are equipped with everything they will need before they embark on their adventure abroad, but what does it do when those same students return? Students who studied abroad during intercession began their adventure on Jan. 3rd and returned home with very little time to recuperate, unpack, and begin their spring semester at USD.

Senior Karlene Ferraro has just returned from intersession in London and is still adjusting to the eight-hour time difference.

“To be honest, it was a little jarring coming back,” Ferraro said. “It is extremely different from London. I wish that I had more time to readjust to life back in the states, and definitely felt rushed going straight from intersession to the Spring semester.”

One thing students realize while abroad is how easy it is to immerse in the culture and feel as if they were actually living there, but that immersion is not as easily reversed. When abroad, students are relieved of the everyday responsibilities they may have been burdened with at USD. With the freedom to explore new countries, putting academics and extracurriculars to the wayside for a while, an immediate return to all of those obligations is putting a lot of stress on students that they may not have been fully prepped for.

After spending her fall semester at sea, Junior Arianna Middleman, had help from the Semester at Sea faculty to get ready for her return.

“I don’t think USD did anything actually. But semester at sea had talks and presentations about getting re-acclimated to the U.S. and to our home universities,” Middleman said. “USD could have probably held that sort of thing for students that struggled coming back to school, but for me it was an easy transition and I am excited to be back!”

To help students returning from intersession and semester programs, on-campus resources would be beneficial, such as group meetings or strategy sessions led by faculty with tips to readjust.

For students who are having an exceptionally difficult time rejoining the real world, it would be beneficial to have counselors, or at least abroad veterans, occasionally check in with these students.
Senior Tatum Hohl would have appreciated some additional care after returning from a semester in Florence last year.

“It was a little depressing coming back from Florence and immediately being thrown back into work, school, sorority obligations, and all my other responsibilities,” Hohl said. “I could have used a little help handling that to be honest.”

At the least, a welcome back get-together would be one way to help get students re-engaged in the American lifestyle with a community they know and trust.

“USD hosted a closing dinner when we were in London, but I think having a welcome back dinner would be more appropriate,” Ferraro said. “Maybe even have some students who have participated in the program before come speak and talk about what they did to adjust.”

Whether you had the time of your life or were counting down the days to your flight home, studying abroad is a life-changing experience. That is partially what makes coming home so difficult. Having resources or advice on how to readjust to your normal life would be extremely rewarding and help ease some stress of unpacking, getting your sleep schedule back on track, and making sure you remember where Copley Library is.