Life-Long Learning After Study Abroad
We have provided information from the Lessons From Abroad: Study Abroad Returnee Conference in conjunction with Maximizing Study Abroad: A Students' Guide to Strategies for Language and Culture Learning and Use to help during your adjustment home.
Regardless of how long or short your time abroad may be, it will stay with you the rest of your life. Suggestions have been provided on how to transform your study abroad experience into Life-Long Learning After Study Abroad.
Continue Your Language and Intercultural Education
Whether through formal or informal instruction, there are many opportunities to continue studying the language and culture of interest after you’ve returned. Universities and community colleges offer many choices for foreign language instruction, and many offer some of the less commonly taught languages as well. Private language schools also provide opportunities to practice and brush up on language skills through informal classes. Many universities and schools offer language exchange or “tandem” programs that match a native speaker, usually an international student or scholar, with someone interested in that student’s home language and culture. In exchange, the partner can tutor them in English.
Involve Your Friends
Invite your friends to a dinner once in a while where you have potluck international parties. Use this as a chance to learn not only about the food, but to have your friends share their experiences with other cultures and what they are doing now to keep an international perspective alive.
Write About Your Experiences
Magazines and newsletters, both on campus and off, will be interested in reviewing and possibly publishing accounts of your overseas experience and the unique perspective you now have. This is an excellent way for you to share with others what it’s like living in another country. Most of your audience will not have experienced what you did, so by sharing your stories, intercultural encounters, and travels with them, you allow them to enter into your world; and perhaps you may even inspire them to take steps toward their own journey abroad!
Keep the International Connections Alive
Many returnees report regretting that they did not keep in touch with their new friends after returning home. You will feel torn, like your heart and mind is split between two countries. The good news is that with the Internet, it is easier now more than ever to maintain contact with people halfway around the world. Writing letters and e-mail is also an excellent way to maintain your newly acquired language skills. As more and more nations have Internet connections, the amount as well as the variety of information available via the Web has mushroomed. Online newspapers give you immediate access to news on current events that often are not reported in U.S. newspapers.
Make New International Connections
Most universities and colleges have active international student organizations that tend to be organized and attended by both international students and U.S. Americans. Many professional and community organizations exist that have cultural exchange and learning as one of their goals. Find out when the next meeting is and check it out.
Seek Out International Volunteer and Employment Opportunities
There are a multitude of opportunities for you to volunteer or find employment that let you utilize your bilingual and bicultural skills:
- Become a homestay family to an international student. Agencies and universities are always looking for suitable homestay families for students, and this is perhaps one of the best means of keeping connected internationally. Be willing to accept a student outside of your own experience and expand your cultural horizons.
- Volunteer or intern in a study abroad office. Your international skills and knowledge about living overseas can be put to valuable use by advising prospective study abroad students and by participating in pre-departure and re-entry orientation programs.
- Volunteer at an office for international students. Offices that work with international students tend to be understaffed and can use volunteers to do a number of vital tasks such as transporting students from the airport, or organizing a drive to collect used household goods and winter clothing for international students, or organizing events or volunteering at orientation for new students.
- Become a buddy or tutor for international students. Already knowing how it feels to go through cross-cultural adjustment in a foreign country, you have a unique perspective and can better understand the needs of international students studying in the U.S. Use those cross-cultural skills to help others and, in turn, deepen your own learning and make valuable international connections.
- Seek out volunteer or work positions at international organizations located in your area. You might be surprised at the number and breadth of international linkages that already exist in your area.
- Volunteer to work with refugees or immigrants in your community. The needs and backgrounds of refugees and immigrants in this country vary tremendously, but they typically do not have the kind of resources that international students have. More and more communities around the country have refugee communities that could use the support of culturally sensitive volunteers.
- Act as a tour guide for visitors from your host country. Many companies now have in-house opportunities for bilingual/bicultural translators and interpreters.
- Seek out opportunities through work, school, or other means to go abroad again. Use your cultural and linguistic fluency to accompany a delegation or tour to your country of interest. They do need you and your skills, even if they might not be aware of it yet!
- A wide variety of materials are available dealing with how to find an international job, whether you want to travel abroad again or be based in the U.S.
- There are also many opportunities for interning or volunteering overseas, which may be a great next step for you. Some of these experiences are longer term (1 to 2 years) and some are available for a few months or less.
- Keep in mind that as more and more connections worldwide are formed, there will be even greater need for your international skills and perspectives. As someone who has experienced another culture first-hand, you are well equipped to contribute to the growth in international and intercultural awareness happening at home and throughout the world.