We recognize that the transition back to Tufts after studying abroad is not always easy: you undoubtedly have changed from your experience abroad and you may find differences in the ways you relate to friends and family. You may also feel a bit out of sorts as you try to cope with busy course loads, making new friends and reconnecting with old ones, getting involved in extracurricular activities, and becoming reacquainted with life at Tufts and in the US. This is completely normal and is often referred to as “reentry shock” or “reverse culture shock.”

We hope that the following information and resources will help you integrate your experience abroad into life at Tufts, as well as your life beyond Tufts. Below, we cover a range of topics, from handling the initial "shock" of your return, to getting involved in campus activities, and marketing your experiences abroad as you venture into the job search.

Taking Care of Yourself

Reverse Culture Shock

After returning from study abroad, it is very common to experience reverse culture shock. Some students describe feeling that old friends do not understand them or that they don’t have a way to maintain new interests they developed abroad. You may experience one or more of the following:

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Boredom
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Uncertainty
  • Isolation
  • Reverse homesickness: missing host families, friends or places in your host country
  • Negativity toward the U.S. or American behavior
  • Redirection of goals or priorities

Reverse culture shock often mirrors what you felt when you first went abroad. It is normal to need time to adjust to coming home. Here are some tips to help cope with reentry:

  • Get involved in activities that you enjoy.
  • Find ways to integrate your new interests and skills into your life at Tufts (such as participating in the International Center’s Intercultural Conversation Program).
  • Seek out other students who have gone abroad and who understand what you are feeling.
  • Be patient with yourself. It is normal to experience some form of reverse culture shock.

Find More Information on Reverse Culture Shock

Mental Health

If you are feel stressed about your return home or are having a hard time readjusting to life in the States, you may want to talk to someone besides your friends. The staff at the Counseling and Mental Health Service, at 120 Curtis Street, 617-627-3360, is available to listen. Some students find it beneficial to go to the Counseling and Mental Health Service just once while others may want a more on-going arrangement. Whatever you prefer, the Counseling and Mental Health Service is there for you.

Physical Health

Upon returning home some students do get sick. If you feel ill or are returning from a developing country, you should schedule a checkup with your doctor at home or with Tufts Health Service. Be sure to tell your doctor where you lived or traveled abroad.

Integrating Your Study-Abroad Experience with Life at Tufts

Through study abroad, you have gained new knowledge, perspectives, and expertise, all of which can be applied to life back here on campus. Your new skill set is not only invaluable to your continued academic growth, but can also enrich your involvement with the Tufts community. Our office welcomes your help in a variety of our programming throughout the year. Here are a few ways you can get involved:

  • Study Abroad Fair: Every September, Tufts holds a study abroad fair where representatives from various programs are invited to talk with students about going abroad. If you are interested in answering questions or helping the Office of Programs Abroad set up the fair, please tell us on your “Get Involved” form or contact Melanie Armstrong.
  • Work-study in the Office of Programs Abroad: Each year the Office of Programs Abroad hires two or three student employees. Part of the job includes helping others through the study-abroad process. If you are interested, please contact us at the beginning of the academic year. To be eligible, you must receive federal work-study.
  • Recruitment meetings: Each fall the Office of Programs Abroad conducts information meetings and pizza parties to recruit students for Tufts Programs Abroad. We need alumni from the various programs to give the student perspective and share their experiences on the Tufts programs. If you went on a Tufts Program, we will contact you during the year for your help.
  • Peer advising: Many students feel overwhelmed as they try to decide on a study-abroad program. If you are willing to be a resource for students planning to go abroad, please indicate that on your “Get Involved” form and make sure to include your contact information and the specific or general areas on which you could offer advice.
  • Pre-departure meetings: At the end of each semester the Office of Programs Abroad conducts pre-departure meetings for those going abroad on both Tufts and external programs. We need recently-returned students to speak about their experiences abroad and answer questions that departing students may have. If you are interested in helping, please contact Melanie Armstrong or indicate your interest on the “Get Involved” form.

Other ways to continue to engage with your study abroad experience are available across campus:

  • Culture houses: The Office of Residential Life offers Special Interest Houses with a cultural focus (Africana, Jewish, Muslim, Latino, Asian-American, Russian, and International) and language houses (Chinese, French, Spanish, German, and Japanese).  The houses are open to all students interested in these languages and cultures and are not limited to majors. They offer small-group living with an opportunity to enjoy an intensive culture or language experience, often with native speakers. Residents participate in many social and cultural events. For more information contact the Office of Residential Life, South Hall, at 617-627-3248 or the International Center at 617-627-3458.
  • Coffee hours: Maintain the language skills you developed abroad by participating in one of the coffee hours arranged through the language departments. For dates and times, please contact the appropriate language department.
  • Get involved with the International Center's 'Intercultural Conversation Program': Remember how it felt when you first arrived overseas? Why not help international students settle into life at Tufts while also helping them work towards English-language fluency? More information can be found at the International Center's website.
  • International Club (I-Club): The I-Club is dedicated to promoting intercultural understanding and exchange throughout the Tufts community. The I-Club plans events such as barbecues, semi-formal dances, and film series. 
  • Other campus clubs: There are many clubs on campus that focus on particular cultures or languages: African Student Organization, Association of Latin American Students, Association of South Asians, Caribbean Student Organization, Chinese Students Association, German Club, Hong Kong Students Association, Indian Society at Tufts, Italian Club, Japanese Culture Club, Korean Student Association, La Societé Francaise, Pan-African Alliance, Russian and Slavic Student Association, Taiwanese Association of Students at Tufts, Thai Student Association, Turkish Alliance, Vietnamese Students Club …and more.  What better way to maintain your language skills and meet people who have cultural ties to where you studied abroad?

Applying the Study-Abroad Experience to Life After Tufts

How to Market Your Experience to Potential Employers

Throughout your experience abroad you were likely acquiring and honing a variety of skills that are incredibly valuable, both in everyday life and in the workplace. Beyond the obvious hard skills like linguistic fluency or other applied skills you may have acquired through coursework or internships, you no doubt cultivated a whole host of skills that are equally, if not more, impressive when highlighted in your job search. These skills may include:

  • Interacting and coming to consensus with people who hold different cultural perspectives.
  • Flexibility and the ability to adapt to change and uncertainty.
  • Ability to work under pressure, think strategically, and problem solve in the face of complex and unanticipated situations.
  • Gaining new knowledge from hands-on, lived experience.
  • Increased independence, self-motivation, and confidence.
  • Undertaking tasks that are unfamiliar and taking calculated risks.

There can be a temptation to describe the study-abroad experience in very general terms, characterizing it simply as “great” or “life-changing.” However, as you update your resumé and practice your interviewing skills, it is useful to identify ways in which you can be specific about why the experience was great and how you became a more well-rounded and capable person as a result of your time abroad. Be sure to include your study-abroad experience on your resumé and give some thought to specific scenarios you encountered abroad that might highlight one or more of the above skills. You should also be prepared to provide details about what happened, how you dealt with the situation, and what you learned as a result. Sometimes the most challenging experiences you faced abroad are the ones that will best highlight your resiliency and problem-solving skills. Being able to discuss your study-abroad experience and how you grew as a result of your time abroad in concrete and specific terms will help you stand out from the crowd in your job search.

Additional Resources