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SAGE Returnees

From the Global Back to the Local: 
Ways of Extending Your SAGE Experience
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Welcome back from your SAGE experience, whether overseas or within the US.  We are eager to hear your stories, to see your photos and will appreciate your feedback and tips for future students to consider.

You studied abroad or elsewhere in the US.  There are students from many countries doing “study abroad” here at the Claremont Colleges. Every year there are hundreds of international students pursuing a degree and others here on exchange at Pitzer for a semester to learn about American culture and perfect their English language skills just as you did on your SAGE program.  Like you, when you were the international student overseas, they hope to make friends with local students but sometimes find it difficult to connect with students outside of the international group.  There are new international students joining Scripps this year and several hundred new international students from over 70 countries that you may encounter in classes, and in clubs and organizations as well in the dining halls and in Seal Court over coffee. Seek them out, they are eager to meet you!
 
Consider Going Back or to a New Location After Graduation: Now is the time to look into post graduate fellowships!  There are opportunities through the US government and private foundations with funding for overseas experiences, either for graduate school, research, or teaching English.  Contact the Scholarship and Fellowships Office and let the Associate Dean of Faculty, Professor Jennifer Armstrong, know of your interest.  Some application deadlines are early, often in September so check into these now.   

Working AbroadCareer Planning and Resources is the place for you to explore international career options.  Go see the helpful staff there about incorporating your study abroad experience into your resume and to explore international careers. In a job interview, it is not enough to just say, “ I studied abroad/did an internship.”  You need to be able to say, “Because I studied abroad, I developed skills in … and this is why I will be a great addition to your company.” Fill in the blank with those skills you honed overseas or in DC and prepare a story of your accomplishments while abroad to set you apart from other applicants. Be specific!  This article, Marketing Study Abroad: How to Sell Your Overseas Experience to Employers, on the Transitions Abroad web site might be useful as you start your thinking process in this regard and other opportunities abroad. 

Language Tables at Scripps and Oldenborg:  Enjoy lunch and converse in foreign languages at tables mentored by native speakers. I am sure you all know that you can find lunch groups meeting weekly for German, French, Italian and Spanish through Scripps.  Once cross-campus dining reopens, Oldenborg at Pomona has other language options and may offer virtual language tables, or you could even organize your own group for a less commonly taught language you started learning while abroad. Please contact the Oldenborg Center  for more information.  

Re-entry and Reverse Culture Shock:  If you found the What's Up With Culture Workshop useful to prepare for crossing cultures before your SAGE program, there is also a workshop for making the transition back home as smooth as possible.  You may find it helpful at different times as you resettle back into US academic life. 
 
 A quick description of re-entry shock from the site, “… most culture shock experienced as part of an overseas adjustment rarely lasts more than a few weeks or months... For most people, it is a transitory situation that usually gives way as intercultural skills improve and small successes accumulate. Reverse culture shock can be more persistent. Some students report that it took them up to a year or more to gain the necessary perspective on their experience to allow them to feel completely at home. Someone once remarked that, "Culture shock abroad was a short term thing, reentering home seemed to take forever." 
 
The important wisdom embedded in these aphorisms is that not only is reverse culture shock a perhaps surprising consequence of return from study abroad, but that its effects might linger considerably longer than one might expect. For most students a reasonable readjustment home takes about the same amount of time that working through culture shock did while abroad, a few weeks to several months, but for some the process is prolonged.”  The important thing to know is that no matter what feelings you have when you return, they are normal.  The SAGE staff are always happy to talk about strategies for feeling more at home. You can request an appointment here should you want to discuss your transition back to campus.

 If at any time you feel this readjustment process to be overly challenging, especially after the last year and half of continuing challenges, Monsour Counseling Center offers several groups to join or private counseling if needed.  
 
Do’s and Don’ts to Consider as You Settle Back in the US:
  • Avoid saying you are bored! You may feel lack of interest in the old and familiar so explore your home community and the surrounding area as if you were a tourist who had just landed in a new and foreign culture. Have you visited Watts Towers, Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, the Museum of Jurassic Technology, or done the Neon Cruise of Route 66?  Who says there is no culture in LA, or your home state?  While we are temporarily prevented from some of the usual exploration opportunities, many museums are offering virtual tours of their collections.  Ethnic restaurants serving some of your new favorite foods from abroad are fun to discover, or consider having a potluck with other returnees and recreate some of your favorite foods to share.   
  • Do show interest in what your family and friends did while you were gone and celebrate their accomplishments as well. Don’t start every sentence with “Well, when I was in _______.  Try to relate experiences that are relevant to others – especially the students considering their study abroad options for next year. They make for a very attentive audience.
  • Don’t be surprised to feel reverse “homesickness.”  This just means you really connected while you were abroad. Do stay in touch with people you met abroad. Zoom and social media allows those connections to continue easily and hopefully it can be followed up by another visit back to your study location in the future!
  • Don’t ignore the fact that relationships have changed-- you changed while abroad, but those at home have changed too. Do be proud of your growth, let people know that you celebrate their changes as well.
  • Do realize how much you have in common with other students who studied abroad and seek them out for support.  Enjoy catching up on what you missed in American pop culture while you were abroad (not much really).   Don’t be surprised at feelings of alienation —not belonging. This is normal and the feelings will quickly pass.
  • Don’t think there is no opportunity to apply your new knowledge/skills/language.  Find a language table or group, share your international insights in class, show-off your new cooking skills to your friends.  
  • Do plan to share your experience with prospective students.  Make a date now in your calendar to pull out and read your journals and view your pictures.  Remember and celebrate your efforts. 
  • Don’t shoebox your experience. This means don't pack away your souvenirs and photos in a box and tuck it away in a corner of your closet - celebrate it, find cuisine locally that remind you of your time abroad, watch foreign movies made in your study location, read literature by authors from that country.    
Christian Morgenstern, whoever that is, has a great quote that applies here, "Home is not where you live, but where they understand you.” There is a supportive network of faculty, staff and other students back from abroad who do understand you.  Come visit us when you are back on  campus!  We are in Balch 136 or you can contact us at sage@scrippscollege.edu.  We are happy to hear from you and meet over a Zoom session and coffee in front of our computers and hopefully soon at the Motley if you want to talk about any aspect of your experience.  We are glad you had this experience and we are doubly glad to have you back to our community.