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Returning from Abroad

Support Services
OU offers services and support to ease the transition of returning from abroad. Let us help you get reacquainted with American culture and eager to jump back into your studies at OU. 

Re-entry workshop
Process your experience abroad and work through the psychological, social, and cultural challenges of your return with a reentry workshop. Participants will get an overview of the re-entry process and may discuss their experience with fellow returnees. Workshops are held in September and January.

Study abroad volunteer
Extend your study abroad experience and influence others by becoming a study abroad volunteer. You’ll help promote study abroad to other students at OU events (including welcome receptions, Go for the Gold, open houses) by answering questions and handing out literature. Apply to be a  volunteer.

Study-abroad speakers bureau
Share your international stories as a study-abroad speaker in classrooms, conferences, and events. Speaking schedules are determined on a semester-to-semester basis. Apply to join the speakers bureau. 

Study-abroad student adviser
Help other students get started on their study abroad experience by becoming a student adviser. Advisers provide one-hour walk-in advising sessions one day a week each week. Training is provided and held at the beginning of each semester. Although there is no pay for advising, you will derive great satisfaction from helping others and gain experience to include on your resume. Apply to be a study abroad student adviser.

Study abroad office internship
Each intern tackles a meaningful study abroad/away project in OU’s International Education office. Internships help develop valuable work skills and a better understanding of how a study abroad office operates. The commitment is one hour per week for a semester. Apply for an internship. 

OU’s Study Abroad Volunteer Alumni (SAVA) group gives returning students a place to share experiences with each other, help prepare future study abroad/away students as well as help with the transition and culture shock of students coming back home. Like us on Facebook. Join SAVA today!

Digital Storytelling Contest
Share your study abroad/study away experience and win!! Create and submit a digital story of your study-abroad experience combining photographs, video, animation, sound, music, and text! The story should be a reflection of your experience but may feature any aspect of your study abroad or study away. An example of a digital story produced by OU 2015 digital storytelling contest winner can be viewed at A Netherlands study-abroad student digital story can be viewed for inspiration at The contest opens in September and closes in November.


A number of software options are suitable for producing a digital story. Photo Story 3 for PCs is a recommended free download available through Microsoft at Animoto editing program can be used on any computer (MAC or PC) and is also free For image editing, try using the free website at


FIRST PLACE (one): winner will receive Lunch for Two at The Red Ox with the IE director; CIEE Backpack; and study-abroad graduation sash

SECOND PLACE (one): winner will receive half dozen cupcakes from Cupcake Station gourmet cupcakes: one for you and five friends, or all six for yourself; and a CIEE ear buds and CIEE travel spork.

THIRD PLACE (one): CIEE study summer glasses and CIEE travel spork.

Digital Storytelling videos will also be shared on the International Education website and through other digital channels and social media.


The contest begins Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015 and ends Friday, Nov. 20 at 11:59 p.m. Winners will be announced Jan. 15, 2016. Prizes will be awarded Feb. 1, 2016.


1. Student applicants must be enrolled at OU at the time the application is submitted and have completed a study abroad/study away program while enrolled as an Oakland University student participating in a study abroad/study away program offered through OU.

2. The Digital Story must be original and include a self photo/image somewhere in the piece.

3. The Digital Story cannot exceed three minutes in length.

4. Digital Story must be submitted with an application online.


To enter the contest, please download, save and complete the Digital Storytelling Contest application. Upload the form with your digital entry into the International Education Dropbox: Submit the video in Dropbox using the username and password provided on the application.

Go to

Click on sign in

Enter the email:

Password: bandol13ou

Create a folder with your name and program on it in the Dropbox, and then drag and drop the application and digital story into the file. Entrants will receive confirmation of entry receipt by email.


Winning entries will be judged on content, creativity, adhering to the rules, and use of the medium.


For questions about the contest, email Cindy at

Special Thanks to CIEE Study Abroad for generously supporting the OU Digital Storytelling Contest.

Share your experience
Friends, family, and future participants are eager to understand what it was like to study abroad or away. Please complete this form to indicate interest in sharing your experience and favorite photos. Your story may appear on OU’s International Education website and social media sites.
Re-entry Challenges
After all the newness and stimulation of your time abroad, a return to family, friends, and old routines (however nice and comforting) can seem very dull. It is natural to miss the excitement and challenges that characterize study in a foreign country, but it is up to you to find ways to  overcome such negative reactions. Try new things, travel domestically, and continue cultural and linguistic studies.

No one wants to hear
One thing you can count on upon your return: no one will be as interested in hearing about your adventures and triumphs as you will be in sharing those experiences. This is not a rejection of you or your achievements, but simply the fact that once they have heard the highlights, any
further interest on your audience's part is probably unlikely. Be realistic in your expectations of how fascinating your journey is going to be for everyone else. Be brief.

You can't explain
Even when given a chance to explain all the sights you saw and feelings you had while studying abroad, it is likely to be at least a bit frustrating trying to relay them coherently. It is very difficult to convey this kind of experience to people who do not have similar frames of reference or travel backgrounds, no matter how sympathetic they are as listeners. You can tell people about your trip, but you may fail to make them understand exactly how or why you felt a particular way. It's okay!

Reverse "homesickness
Just as you probably missed home for a time after arriving overseas, it is just as natural to experience some reverse homesickness for the people, places, and things that you grew accustomed to as a student abroad. To an extent, writing letters, telephoning, emailing, and generally keeping in contact can reduce them, but feelings of loss are an integral part of international sojourns and must be anticipated and accepted as a natural result of study abroad.

Relationships have changed
It is inevitable that when you return you will notice that some relationships with friends and family will have changed. Just as you have altered some of your ideas and attitudes while abroad, the people at home are likely to have experienced some changes that are very important to them. These changes may be positive or negative, but expecting that no change will have occurred is unrealistic. The best preparation is flexibility, openness, minimal preconceptions, and tempered optimism.

People see the "wrong" changes
Sometimes people may concentrate on small alterations in your behavior or ideas and seem threatened or upset by them. These incidents may be motivated by jealousy, fear, or feelings of superiority or inferiority. To avoid or minimize discomfort, it is necessary to monitor yourself and be aware of the reactions of those around you, especially in the first few weeks following your return. This phase normally passes quickly if you do nothing to confirm their stereotypes.

People misunderstand
A few people will misinterpret your words or actions in such a way that communication becomes difficult. For example, what you may have come to think of as witty humor (particularly sarcasm, banter, etc.) and a way to show affection or establish a conversation may be considered aggression or "showing off." Continually using references to foreign places or sprinkling foreign language expressions or words into an English conversation is often considered boasting. Be aware of how you may look to others and how your behavior is likely to be interpreted.

Feeling of alienation/seeing with "critical eyes"
Sometimes the reality of being back "home" is not as natural or enjoyable as the place you had constructed as your mental image. When actual daily life is less enjoyable or more demanding than you remembered, it is natural to feel some alienation. Many returnees develop “critical eyes,” a tendency to see faults in the society you never noticed before (e.g., Americans are so wasteful, materialistic, fat, in a hurry, etc.). Being critical is closely related to discomfort during readjustment and mild "culture shock. "Mental comparisons are fine, but keep them to yourself until you regain both your cultural balance and a balanced perspective.

Inability to apply new knowledge and skills
Many returnees are frustrated by the lack of opportunity to apply newly gained social, linguistic, and practical coping skills that appear to be unnecessary or irrelevant at home. To avoid ongoing annoyance: adjust to reality as necessary, change what is possible, be creative, be patient, and above all, use all the cross?cultural adjustment skills you acquired abroad to assist your own reentry.

Loss/compartmentalization of experience ("shoeboxing")
Being home, combined with the pressures of job, school, family, and friends, often conspires to make returnees worried that they might somehow "lose" the experience. Many fear that it will become compartmentalized like souvenirs or photo albums kept in a box and only occasionally taken out and looked at. You do not have to let that happen: maintain your contacts abroad; seek out and talk to people who have had experiences similar to yours; practice your cross?cultural skills; continue language learning. To the extent possible, integrate your overseas experience into your ongoing life and activities.
Adapted from a list originally created by Dr. Bruce La Brack, School of International Studies, University of the Pacific, for the Latin American Scholarship Program, American Universities of Harvard University, Central American Program for Undergraduate Scholars.
Study Abroad
Volunteer Alumni (SAVA)
The purpose of the Study Abroad Volunteer Alumni (SAVA) group is to share our experiences with each other, help prepare future study abroad/away students as well as to help with the transition and culture shock of students coming back home.

This is an awesome opportunity for students to get together, and share what it is really like to study abroad/away, to meet new people who may have shared similar experiences, exchange the good, the bad and amazing stories from your experience. Even if you are not signed up to study abroad, but are interested in learning more, stop by one of our meetings. ALL students are welcome and we are all happy to answer any questions you may have.

Please stay posted for upcoming SAVA events.

SAVA Officers  
President            Dan Gildner
Vice President    Brie McGrath
Secretary           Holly Cavanaugh
Treasurer           Kara Sutter