Preparing To Return Home
It is difficult to think about returning home, before you have left, but you will be better prepared if you read through this information quickly now, and then in more detail later. If you thought your last few weeks in the U.S. were busy, just wait until you prepare to head home!
Each study abroad student will receive a transcript from their program 6-8 weeks after the program concludes. Most programs will send one copy of the transcript to the student and one copy directly to the Center for Global Education. You are welcome to contact our office to see if your transcript has been received, but please remember to allow 6-8 weeks for processing by your program. Transcripts are sometimes held if you have any outstanding bills. Please make sure to pay all bills, and sign any necessary “transcript release” forms from your program before you return to the US. Also, check to make sure you have completed and submitted all academic assignments prior to your departure. This will expedite the processing of your transcript.
Return Flight Arrangements
In the vast majority of cases students will have purchased a round trip ticket for their study abroad semester. Whether you have a round trip ticket, or you need to purchase a ticket to return home, the best advice is to plan ahead. Many tickets have restrictions on the days you can travel, on whether you can change your return date, or on where you can depart from. It is important that you know everything you can about your plane ticket in advance, so if you need to make changes, you are able to do so. If you have a round trip ticket, contact the airline two months ahead of your departure, to make sure that have your reservation, and that you know exactly when and from where the flight departs. If you need to purchase a return ticket, do this as soon as you can once you have reached your host country. Flights fill up very quickly, and if you wait to make your reservation, you may get stuck with a date that does not suit your plans.
It is very important that you take the time to say goodbye. This may seem ridiculous, but many students return to the United States feeling as if they did not take the time to recognize that they were leaving a very special place. Say good-bye to your friends, teachers, favorite shop keepers, etc. Have that last “favorite food” and visit the places that have become special to you. Take pictures, write some thoughts in a journal - you will be thankful later.
I’m Back In the United States!
It may seem like you have just gotten adjusted to being abroad, and now you are home! It is important to work through the readjustment process to life in the United States.
For some students, coming home can be just as difficult or even more difficult than leaving home. Everyone tries to prepare you for your study abroad experience, with tips about travel and homesickness. However, few programs prepare you for readjustment back to America. Half of the battle of handling this readjustment is to be aware that it might be difficult to return home, and that this is a very normal reaction. Following are some of the things which you may face on your return home:
- you don't completely fit in anymore
- you think you have changed, but no one has noticed
- no one wants to hear about your trip
- nothing has changed since you left
- everything has changed since you left
- some people never even noticed you were gone
- everyone at Gettysburg is so narrow minded
- you miss friends you made abroad
- no one understands what you are feeling
Many Gettysburg Study Abroaders have felt exactly like this on their return to the United States. So how do you handle these feelings? Past study abroad students suggest you treat these feelings very much like you treated the homesickness while you were away. Everyone experiences their readjustment a little bit differently. For some of us it is very hard, and for others it is relatively easy. For some people it takes months before they feel completely readjusted, and for others it takes only a few weeks. Whatever it is that you are feeling, let yourself feel it. These are very real and difficult feelings.
You are not the same person you were when you left Gettysburg. Let your "new self" adjust to Gettysburg life just like you let your "old self" adjust to Gettysburg life when you were a freshman. You may find that some of the old clubs you were in do not interest you anymore, but different ones do. Join a new club, like the International Club. You may even find that some of your old friendships are not the same anymore. Accept this as part of the growing up experience. Do not blame yourself or your friends for these changes. It could be that your friendships now take on a different role. You may develop some new friendships with other returning study abroad students. Maybe it's time to take on some new friendships.
Here are pointers from past study abroad students for some constructive ways to deal with this readjustment period:
-Follow up on your new interests or hobbies, don't let yourself just tuck them away in the back of your mind.
- Talk to other Gettysburg study abroad students. Share your experiences and your feelings with them. You will be surprised to see how many of them really do understand and feel the same way as you do.
- Go to the counseling center and have a chat with Bill Jones, Harriet Marritz, or Frances Parker. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to be nearing a nervous breakdown in order to go down and see them. Tell them about your travels abroad and how hard it is to readjust back to life in Gettysburg. You may be surprised to find that our counseling staff have many, varied international experiences, and they do know how you are feeling!
- Be nice to yourself and give yourself time to adjust! You are without a doubt a more rounded, better person, than before you left. You are more mature. Let your friends have time to get to know this new you.
- Make a scrapbook to show your friends and family. But mainly, make a scrapbook for yourself. Those pictures mean more to you than to anyone else. Do this soon after you get home because once you get home your perspective will have changed and you will be too busy to start this project.
- Attend the Welcome Back Session when you return to campus.
- Be an advocate for study abroad. Urge someone else to consider this experience.