Returning to Campus

There are many ways for you to re-connect to the Butler University community upon your return to Butler, but it’s also important to recognize the growth and change you’ve experienced abroad. Here are some ways to celebrate the international experience you had abroad and bring a piece of it back home:

  • Visit the Center for Global Education (CGE) in Jordan Hall 133 upon your return to Butler. We would love to hear all about your experiences abroad and see some photos!
  • Keep an eye out for the Butler MLLC Annual Photo Contest (with cash prizes!) to be able to share some visual representations of your life-changing study abroad experience.
  • Attend the CGE and CFV’s joint event Unpacking Your Study Abroad Experience. We run this session every semester to discuss help students join the conversation about life abroad and what it’s like re-entering the “Butler Bubble.” You also have the change to connect with other Butler students who recently returned from being abroad and see how your experiences compare.
  • Contact Ms. Bobbie Gibson, Associate Director of Diversity Programs and International Student Services, to find ways to get involved with the International Club, Diversity Ambassadors, and other organizations in the community to stay involved with international issues and/or to continue honing your language skills.

Obtaining Academic Credit

Though you have lots to consider when preparing to return home, resolving any remaining course approval concerns should be at the top of your list. Ideally, you should have obtained approvals for all the courses you took abroad and submitted the form to the CGE before you departed, but if you did not, please complete the following process. Upon return to Butler’s campus, you must pick up a new Study Abroad Course Approval Form from the CGE and get the official signatures from department chairs for any courses that were not approved prior to your departure. This ensures that your previously unapproved courses will be added onto your Butler account and count towards necessary degree requirements. You will likely need to submit the course description or syllabus, as well as any other materials from your course to the department head for his/her use when considering approval. The department head is not required to approve your course without appropriate documentation.

The Office of Registration and Records processes transfer credit when ALL course approvals have been submitted and your official transcript has been received. Transcripts from abroad generally arrive two months after the end of the program. When we have the required documents, we review the transcript and the forms on file and notify you if you are missing a course approval. When you have submitted any missing course approvals and the file is complete, the Office of Registration and Records will post the courses taken abroad according to the BU course equivalents indicated by the faculty.

Adjusting To Your Return

Just as you experience some form of culture shock during your first weeks in your host country, you may experience another period of adjustment upon your return to your home country. Many students do not expect to have difficulty when they come home, especially since they are returning to familiar surroundings and people. But do not be surprised if you are a little disoriented at first. The study abroad experience has enabled you to grow and it has distanced you from your home country, geographically, and culturally. You will find you may have a new and different perspective on life in the United States.

Re-entry is a time for reflection on your summer/semester/year abroad. You may feel your emotions are taking you on a roller-coaster ride, with high highs and low lows. This is normal and part of the process. Everyone has different experiences and it is normal to question yourself, make comparisons and re-examine your beliefs and values. In doing so, there are some suggested questions you may wish to consider and think about, to help you through your return adjustment.

  • How did your expectations differ from your actual experiences?
  • What was the most important thing you learned while abroad?
  • What was the most important thing you learned about yourself while abroad?
  • Do you think your goals were realistic?
  • Did your goals change while abroad?

Be sure to attend the Unpacking Your Study Abroad Experience event upon your return to campus. This meeting will give you an opportunity to share your overseas experience with other study abroad returnees and with the CGE.

Dealing With Return Culture Shock

Don’t be surprised that many of your friends and family may not understand what you have experienced, and may not demonstrate the level of interest in your semester or year abroad that you had expected.

  • Use diplomacy in raving about your host country.
  • Avoid criticizing the United States and always comparing it to your host country.
  • Don’t impose your cultural changes on others.
  • Seek out your good friends and share both the joys and readjustment problems.
  • Listen to those who have remained at home; they will also have stories to tell.
  • Consider the techniques you used in adjusting to your host country and use those same strategies.
  • When asked stereotypical questions, respond with cultural relativism.
  • Always rely on a sense of humor!
  • Stay physically healthy since stress may cause you to be unduly tired, easily depressed or subject to minor illnesses.
  • Spend time alone to sort out your feelings, to set new goals and priorities, to put things into perspective and to separate the lasting benefits from the casual impressions.
  • Meet with other returning students to share experiences and advice on readjustment issues.
  • Join a cultural or language club on campus, and stay involved!
  • Extend hospitality to foreign students, faculty and visitors on campus.
  • Keep up on developments in the host country. One of the best parts of an overseas experience is the friends made. Write to them and invite them to the United States. Make every effort to keep the friendships as strong as they were when abroad.

Preparing To Return Home: Quick Tips

By Dr. Bruce LaBrack

Re-entry into your home culture can be both challenging and as frustrating as living overseas, mostly because our attitude toward going “home” is that it should be a simple matter of getting resettled, resuming your earlier routines, and reestablishing your relationships.

However, world wide re-entry has its own set of special social and psychological adjustments which can be facilitated by being aware of the re-entry process and following some advice from those who have already returned.

The following list is compiled from many sources, but all of the tips come from returnees who offer these ideas in the hope of making your re-entry easier for you and for those at home.

  • Prepare for an adjustment process. The more you consider your alternatives, think about what is to come, and know about how returning home is both similar to and different from going abroad, the easier the transition will be. Anticipating is useful. As one psychologist put it, “Worrying helps.”
  • Allow yourself time. Re-entry is a process that will take time, just like adjusting to a new foreign culture. Give yourself time to relax and reflect upon what is going on around you, how you are reacting to it, and what you might like to change. Give yourself permission to ease into the transition.
  • Understand that the familiar will seem different. You will have changed, home has changed, and you will be seeing familiar people, places, and behaviors from new perspectives. Some things will seem strange, perhaps even unsettling. Expect to have some new emotional and psychological reactions to being home. Everyone does.
  • There will be much “cultural catching up” to do. Some linguistic, social, political, economic, entertainment and current event topics will be unfamiliar to you as new programs, slang, and even governmental forms may have emerged since you left. You may have some learning to do about your own culture. (Note: most returnees report that major insights into themselves and their home countries occur during re-entry).
  • Reserve judgments. Just as you had to keep an open mind when first encountering the culture of a new foreign country, try to resist the natural impulse to make snap decisions and judgments about people and behaviors once back home. Mood swings are common at first and your most valuable and valid analysis of events is likely to take place after allowing sometime for thorough reflection.
  • Respond thoughtfully and slowly. Quick answers and impulsive reactions often characterize returnees. Frustration, disorientation, and boredom in the returnee can lead to behavior that is incomprehensible to family and friends. Take some time to rehearse what you want to say and how you will respond to predictable questions and situations; prepare to greet those that are less predictable with a calm, thoughtful approach.
  • Cultivate sensibility. Showing an interest in what others have been doing while you have been on your adventure overseas is the surest way to reestablish rapport. Much frustration in returnees stems from what is perceived as disinterest by others in their experience and lack of opportunity to express their feelings and tell their stories. Being as a good a listener as a talker is a key ingredient in mutual sharing.
  • Beware of comparisons. Making comparisons between cultures and nations is natural, particularly after residence abroad; however, a person must be careful not to be seen as too critical of home or too lavish in praise of things foreign. A balance of good and bad features is probably more accurate and certainly less threatening to others. The tendency to be an “instant expert” is to be avoided at all costs.
  • Remain flexible. Keeping as many options open as possible is an essential aspect of a successful return home. Attempting to re-socialize totally into old patterns and networks can be difficult, but remaining aloof is isolating and counterproductive. What you want to achieve is a balance between maintaining earlier patterns and enhancing your social and intellectual life with new friends and interests.
  • Seek support networks. There are lots of people back home who have gone through their own re-entry and understand a returnees concerns – academic faculty, exchange students, international development staff, diplomatic corps, military personnel, church officials, and businessmen and women. University study-abroad and foreign student offices are just a few of the places where returnees can seek others who can offer support and country-specific advice.

Compiled by Dr. Bruce LaBrack. School of International Studies, University of the Pacific for use by the Institute of International Education, San Francisco. Aspire Newsletter, Spring 1996.