resources for returning students

 

So you’re back from your study abroad trip. You may be asking yourself: now what? Luckily for you, the information on this page can answer every version of that question. We've got tips on how to readjust to life at home, ways you can use your international experience to help your job search, details on cultural events happening right here at Pitt, and more! Look around to see how you can continue benefitting from your study abroad trip long after it’s over.

 


Reverse Culture Shock

You may be familiar with the term “reverse culture shock.” More than a catch-phrase, however, reverse culture shock can be a very real challenge for many students returning from study abroad experiences. Just as students may struggle in adjusting to a new culture abroad, they may also find difficulty in adjusting to “normal life” once they return home. Some symptoms of reverse culture shock include: boredom, apathy for others, trouble articulating your experience, reverse homesickness, feeling isolated or alienated, and compartmentalization or “shoeboxing” of your experience, among others. Here are some tips for avoiding reverse culture shock:

Strategies for Readjusting to Life at Home

  1. Anticipate the adjustment and give yourself time. Take time to think about the transition and reflect on how it’s affecting you.
  2. Know that things will be (or seem) different. Life at home has continued in your absence. Large political or cultural changes may have occurred. You may perceive family or friends differently. Understanding that things may be or seem different can better prepare you to react effectively.
  3. Reserve judgments and respond thoughtfully. Just as you adjusted to a new culture abroad, it may take time to re-adjust to your culture at home. Be cautious about making snap judgments or responding negatively to your surroundings. 
  4. Be sensitive to others. Family and friends may notice significant changes in you and not know how to respond effectively - or they may have trouble understanding your experience in general. Be patient and sensitive to loved ones who may also be adjusting to a “new” you.
  5. Seek support if you need it. Readjusting to life at home can be just as difficult as adjusting to life abroad. Make sure to talk to friends and family about how you are feeling. Find ways to continue your experience through student groups, cultural organizations or Pitt’s Study Abroad Office.

If you continue to suffer from the symptoms of reverse culture shock, please take advantage of the University counseling services. To schedule an appointment, visit: https://www.studentaffairs.pitt.edu/cc/services/appointment/

Selling Your International Experience

Studying abroad provides students with a chance to learn about themselves and their world, opportunities to learn new languages and meet new people, and memories that will last a lifetime. Studying abroad also sets you apart. Many graduate schools and potential employers seek candidates with international experience because they believe such students have the skills to succeed in a global world. It’s important to know how to best market the knowledge and skills you have gained from your study abroad experience. The Study Abroad Office encourages you to meet with Career Services to discuss how to do this best—but, for now, here are a few tips.

You can include your study abroad experience under education or relevant experience. If your experience was heavily academic (large course load, research work, etc.), it may be best to include it under education. However, if you completed a professional internship while abroad, you might choose to include study abroad under relevant work experience. For example:

Study Abroad as Education:

University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA (2007)

  • BA in Political Science, magna cum laude
  • Thesis: Evolution of Women’s Rights in Argentina

Study Abroad, Institute for the International Education of Students, La Plata, Argentina    (2006)

  • Earned 12 credit hours in coursework related to Latin American culture and society.
  • Achieved fluency in Spanish.
  • Produced research project on the effect of birth control on population growth in Argentina.
​Study Abroad as Relevant Experience:

Volunteer ESL Tutor, The Hispanic Center, Pittsburgh, PA    (2004 -2007)

  • Developed and implemented lesson plans for ESL adult students.
  • Managed classroom of 10 -15 adults from diverse backgrounds.

Study Abroad, Institute for the International Education of Students, La Plata, Argentina    (2006)

  • Established rapport quickly with individuals in an unfamiliar environment.
  • Developed culturally appropriate questionnaire and interviewed 25 rural Argentinean women.
  • Analyzed data using Argentinean software and produced final report on the effect of birth control on population growth in Argentina.
​Other Tips:
  1. Adjust your resume to your audience. You likely won’t submit the same resume to a graduate school and to a potential employer.
  2. Focus on your accomplishments and skills. Your resume should focus on the “results” of your study abroad experience, not simply where you went or what you did.
  3. Don’t forget to include any other relevant aspects of your experience - such as volunteer work, independent studies, etc.

  1. Be professional. Talk about your experience and how it relates to potential employment, not about what a great time you had.

  2. Take inventory of the skills and knowledge you gained from studying abroad prior to the interview. For example, consider:

    • Coursework

    • Professional experience (i.e. an internship)

    • Cross-cultural communication skills

    • Language ability

    • Personal skills related to living abroad (i.e. ability to adapt quickly)

  3. Be specific when talking about what you accomplished or learned. Use the STAR method to answer interview questions:

    • S – Situation: Explain the situation.

    • T – Target: Describe what you wanted to achieve.

    • A – Action: Describe what you did.

    • R – Results: Describe what happened, how things turned out, what you learned, and what you’d do differently if presented the same circumstances.      

  4. Focus on your successes and accomplishments while abroad, not challenges that you weren’t able to overcome.

  5. Be positive. Avoid complaining about your host country, family, etc.

  6. Avoid shocking or inappropriate stories.

  7. Avoid potentially unfamiliar language such as “reverse culture shock” or country-specific lingo.

For more information on how to capitalize on your international experience, please contact Anastasia Lopez, the career services consultant in charge of international careers:

http://www.studentaffairs.pitt.edu/cdpa/anastasia-lopez/

Continue developing your global competence – right here in Pittsburgh!

There are many ways to continue expanding your knowledge of the global community from the comfort of your very own city. Pittsburgh has a thriving international community, with frequent cultural events open to the public. The University Center for International Studies has a list of some of these events on their website (http://www.ucis.pitt.edu/main/events), but we encourage you to actively seek out others on your own! Some other ways to develop your global competence here at Pitt include:

Three Rivers "Lessons from Abroad" Study Abroad Returnee Conference

Consider attending the Three Rivers "Lessons from Abroad" Returnee Conference! Held at Duquesne University each fall, the conference is a chance for you to share your experiences with other study abroad returnees from all over the Pittsburgh area, learn how to utilize your global skills in your job search, network with professionals working in internationally-focused jobs, and more! Admission is free for students. For more information, visit: 
http://www.lessonsfromabroad.org/three-rivers/

Area Studies Certificates

Consider adding an area studies certificate to your academic plan! The University Center for International Studies offers certificates in global studies that concentrate on specific areas of the world. Depending on where you studied abroad, you can complete a certificate in African Studies, Asian Studies, Latin American Studies, European Studies, Russian and East European Studies, or Global Studies. In fact, you may have already fulfilled some of the requirements for the certificate just by studying abroad! No matter what your academic course of study is, an area studies certificate is an excellent way to show future employers and admissions officers that you are a well-rounded, globally-minded student. For more information on area studies certificates, visit: http://www.ucis.pitt.edu/main/programs

English Language Institute – Conversation Partner Program

Interested in doing a language exchange or having a conversation partner with an international student in the English Language Institute? The University of Pittsburgh English Language Institute recruits native English speakers for its Culture and Language Exchange Program, which pairs American students with international students studying English as a Second Language in the ELI's intensive English program. It's a great way to practice another language, and to help an international student make friends and learn more about American (and Pittsburgh) culture.

Keep in touch with the Study Abroad Office after your trip to get the most of your international experience.

There are lots of ways you can stay involved with the Study Abroad community here on campus! See below for details. 

Study Abroad Photo Contest

Each Fall semester, the Study Abroad Office (SAO) organizes its annual photo contest to showcase the travels and experiences of recent study abroad participants. All submitted photos will be displayed and voted on online on the Study Abroad Office Facebook profile. Cash prizes will be awarded for the top three photos. If you have any questions about the photo contest, feel free to contact us at abroad@pitt.edu or 412-648-7413.

Study Abroad Internship

Help other Pitt students plan their abroad experience while earning Pitt credit! Interns serve as peer advisors and assist at promotional events. Interns can earn 3 credits for their work. If you are friendly, outgoing, and want to help other students have a rewarding experience abroad, apply online at: http://www.abroad.pitt.edu/internship