Guest Posting By: Missy Gluckmann, Founder of MelibeeGlobal.com
Commencement-mania is here! It is that timeless season when students suffer from exhaustion, senioritis, relief and Facebook photo album induced nostalgia. Family and friends appear for celebrations, money is gifted and the job search is officially underway!
Students reflect on those moments that are impossible to replicate – the first time meeting a roommate, that first cafeteria meal (who will I sit with?), and the first class that required reading books and not chapters. For some, this will also include the first time getting on a plane to experience an academic program abroad. Memories will spill over…that first academic field trip on foreign soil, when you made your first “local” friend, the day you successfully ordered a coffee in a new language, and the first time you really understood that culture makes a difference. There were endless moments of learning and many were captured in your study abroad evaluation.
Being home for some time now, you have likely experienced re-entry shock – that feeling of discomfort, awareness, re-adjustment and sometimes plain ‘ol confusion that your home country is a bit harder to understand than you ever imagined! Please don’t worry – everyone goes through some form of re-entry – whether it is the mild kind (I miss the breakfast I ate abroad every morning) to the more difficult variety (I’m feeling straight up depressed and want to be abroad again NOW!) These videos may offer some comfort as you continue to reflect on your time abroad.
And now you’re home, constantly reminded that higher education is highly revered in the US. Being able to announce the job that you landed as a result of that degree or the graduate school that you were accepted to (hopefully, with a scholarship to enhance family bragging rights) is a rite of passage. The pressure that comes with the questions you hear daily – “You haven’t gotten a job yet?” or “Where are you interviewing?”- can make diving head first under the nearest rock seem like a completely reasonable move.
However, there are perks of this “down time,” despite the challenges of defining the next chapter of your journey. Without mainstream campus culture’s requirements of all-nighter study sessions, you now have time to reflect upon your education abroad experience and to revisit your published evaluation at StudyAbroad101.com. Reading back to your program review can provide some powerful memories. You can re-examine what you learned abroad and how those lessons can help you as you consider the path ahead.
Reflecting upon your own written words from your review and your own re-entry, you are able to consider how you’d answer those same questions today. While revisiting your review, I’d recommend taking out a piece of paper (or journal, if you write in one) and asking yourself these questions:
1) Where have I grown the most?
2) What three words would I use to describe how I’ve changed as a result of this experience abroad?
3) What three skills learned abroad am I most of proud? Why?
4) What data and skills learned from academic classes and experiences abroad am I still applying in my daily life?
5) Am I satisfied with my level of knowledge from my academic program abroad or do I wish to pursue more?
6) If applicable, have I continued developing my host country’s language skills? If not, what can I do to move that learning forward?
7) What critical incidents abroad would I process differently now with some time and space behind me?
8) How have those lessons impacted who I am and how I respond under pressure?
9) What would I expand upon in my written evaluation if given a second chance to write it?
Reflecting on your review through these types of questions provides an opportunity to develop new goals. For example, if you reached a low intermediate level of Spanish abroad, perhaps now is the time to sign up for a language exchange in your community or to take a free online language program such as at www.duolingo. Or if you’ve discovered that you really enjoyed learning about your host country’s indigenous population, you may want to explore diversity more at home through volunteering or watching documentaries on the subject from your local library.
Your study abroad review, if thoughtfully written, also creates an opportunity to market yourself during networking and interviews. For example, when someone asks you about your time abroad, you can share your reflection driven “elevator speech” and offer to share your published review to illustrate your writing and analytical skills. This dialogue also creates a natural opportunity to ask for a business card or a LinkedIN invitation.
Reflection is an art form and your skillfully written words from your education abroad review are the canvas where you chose to paint your initial thoughts of self and skill developed as a critical part of the journey of crossing cultures. As you march boldly into the world seeking a job or the next level of education, remember to use the wisdom gleaned from experiences abroad. They can be a bridge to creating more opportunities than you ever imagined!