When you return
Returning to the University of Exeter after a year abroad can be very exciting, but also full of questions and challenges. How will you adjust to the culture back home and the fact that many of your friends will have graduated? How do you include the skills and experiences that you gained abroad in your search for a graduate job? Where do you start if you want to go abroad again, either for work or study?
We've put together a guide for you that addresses these questions and showcases the many resources and opportunities available through the University of Exeter and beyond. Contact the Global Opportunities Team at email@example.com with any questions.
Some students find that they need a period of adjustment when returning to their home country. Some experience difficulties readjusting to what were once familiar surroundings and relationships. You may have an idealised view of home because you have missed it and are looking forward to going back. You may also have the idea that nothing will have changed whilst you have been away i.e., an expectation of total familiarity. Returning home may fall short of your expectations.
How will this affect me?
It affects everyone differently depending on how familiar you were with your home country before you went, how long you have been away etc. Difficulties with readjustment will vary widely from student to student. Some may not have any difficulties at all and this may very much depend upon how integrated you have become in your host country.
Feelings you may experience:
Many students feel that they have become much more independent and have had a great deal more privacy whilst abroad and are scared that they will lose this when they return home. Your family and friends may expect you to be the same as when you left but you may feel like a different person due to your experiences. Your family and friends may have changed while you have been away. You may experience the following feelings:
- Feelings of alienation
- A sense that there is a lack of interest from family and friends
- Inconsistency between expectations and reality
Stages of reverse culture shock
- Disengagement - begins before you leave.
- Saying goodbye to all your new friends and you begin to feel sad and reluctant to leave.
- Initial euphoria - you start to feel excited about returning home. You are happy to see family and friends and they are happy to see you.
- Irritability and hostility - people start not to be as interested as you thought they would be about your Study Abroad stories. You may experience feelings of alienation, loneliness, disorientation, depression and feeling like a stranger.
- Readjustment and adaption - things will gradually start to feel more normal and you may start to fall back into some old routines. You will start to incorporate the positives from your Study Abroad country with the positives from your life at home.
So how can I prepare for it and help myself?
You have already started, by being aware that reverse culture shock exists and then accepting that this is perfectly normal!
You can also:
- Make sure you keep in contact with friends made whilst abroad
- Discuss other students' experience of returning home
- Stay in contact with friends and family at home
- Read magazines and newspapers from home.
So now that you are aware of reverse culture shock, the important thing to do is not to worry about it! Concentrate on enjoying the positive aspect of being back at home and give yourself time to adjust.
You may wish to keep the Study Abroad experience alive by joining the Erasmus or International Societies here at Exeter.
Reintegration into the University of Exeter after a year or a semester abroad can be difficult from an academic perspective and take a bit of time. Whether you are a Work Abroad student struggling with readjusting to an unstructured schedule or you just have difficulty readapting to Exeter assessment methods, it's important to be aware of the academic challenges that you might face on your return and the resources available to you for support.
Potential academic challenges:
- Return to the student lifestyle for Work Abroad students
- Adjusting back to Exeter assessment methods
- Losing study groups from your course
- Finding motivation for coursework after such an exciting year
For most students the biggest challenge in returning from a year abroad is finding that not only have many friends graduated, but most familiar faces from your course in previous years have also gone. This means that you will be struggling with a reduced social and support network during an important transition time.
This can be a very difficult and isolating feeling, which is why one of the most important things to do for your mental and social health is to make an active effort when you return to meet new people and create a new set of friendly faces on campus.
How can I meet new people?
Attend the Returners' Homecoming
Keep an eye out for announcements regarding the welcome event in September for Study Abroad returners in Exeter and Penryn! This will be your chance to meet, connect and share with other Exeter students who were abroad at the same time, perhaps in the same country as you, and are experiencing similar challenges.
Make new friends through societies
- Get involved in cross-year societies before you go
- Join the Travel Exe Society or another society with an international focus
- Join a new society, maybe for a hobby that you picked up while abroad!
- Participate in a Tandem Language Exchange to keep up your language skills
TravelExe is a student group dedicated to connecting students at the University of Exeter who are passionate about travel. As a Study Abroad returner, you could:
- Connect with other students to arrange your housing in Exeter before your return
- Give advice and answer questions about your host country and university
- Share your experience abroad through the TravelExe blog or social media
- Meet younger students considering Study Abroad
- Meet and connect with fellow returners
- Participate in the society's social events in Exeter and around the South West
- Make new friends!
Stay up to date with TravelExe through their Facebook page.
How can I get involved on campus?
Share your international knowledge
There are several opportunities for you to share the knowledge that you have gained during your time abroad with new students. Both of these opportunities can count towards your Exeter Award.
This is the university's biggest mentor scheme, and it pairs up new international and inbound exchange students with current students at the University of Exeter. The scheme runs during the first six weeks of each semester (in September and January). There are separate networks available for both the Exeter and the Cornwall campuses. You can find more information and sign-up forms here.
Get involved with leadership positions on campus
Use all the leadership skills and maturity that you acquired during your time abroad to make a difference on campus! As a fourth year you will be able to bring guidance and experience to the younger students around you:
- Represent your academic course or college through the Guild's Student Staff Liaison Committee
- Share the best of Exeter by working part time as a Student Ambassador
- Develop leadership skills and prepare for a graduate career with the Exeter Award and the Exeter Leaders Award
- Run for a committee position in a student society
Still having a rough return?
The combination of loneliness and isolation, dissertation work, the search for a graduate job and the return to a "normal" life after such an exciting year abroad can bring a whole new set of stresses and pressures. From self-help resources to therapy and counselling, Wellbeing Services can support and advise you during this difficult time of transition. Book an appointment.
Self reflection and rethinking your goals
How have your personal interests and professional goals changed as a result of your time abroad? Maybe your had your mind set on a particular career path, but you would now like to explore other options. While it can be intimidating to question your career goals, it is completely normal and it shows that you have learned more about yourself during your year abroad. The next step is to research the professional opportunities available that better match your graduate objectives.
No matter where you are in your job search, the Career Zone offers many resources to help with your research, starting with the Career Planning Tool. If you feel that your interest in potential career fields or professional sectors has changed, this guide will help you research the opportunities available across sectors.
Communicating your global skillset
Studying abroad helps you develop a certain skillset, which employers in the global marketplace value and seek out. You will first need to identify the competencies and transferable skills that you have gained during your year abroad, before deciding how you will market them to employers. It is very important to note that you do not need to have been on a work placement abroad to develop this global skillset.
Here are a few resources that explore this theme:
- How to Develop a Career Strategy while you Study Abroad from Transitions Abroad
- Effective Marketing of Study Abroad Skills to Employers from Studyabroad.com
- Marketing Study Abroad: How to Sell Your Overseas Experience to Employers from Transitions Abroad
- How to Build an International Employment Profile from Transitions Abroad
Network, network, network
Creating a global network and staying connected with people from your year abroad is the key to connecting to opportunities that are not necessarily advertised, learning about different career paths, and finding a job. The following resources will help you connect to professionals in your field of interest:
- Connect to alumni in your host country through the Year Abroad Country Host scheme
- Connect with Exeter University alumni through different events and networks
- Connect with classmates and research job opportunities on LinkedIn and social media both during and after your placement
- Participate in the Career Mentor scheme either before or after your placement
- Intimidated by networking? Read the International Networking Manifesto from Transitions Abroad
Employability Opportunities at Exeter
How can you increase your employability as a recent graduate? These opportunities will help you increase your experience and training in your field of interest.
It's been a crazy and exciting year abroad, and now you can't wait to go back after graduation! Maybe you would like to return to your host country or explore a different part of the world. Either way, finding a graduate job abroad can be more involved and complex than studying abroad. This section covers factors to consider when looking for a job abroad, resources for your research, and potential short-term opportunities available abroad.
Consider the following questions before going abroad:
What kind of job are you looking for, and how does it fit with your long term goals?
The search for a graduate job in a particular career field abroad will be much more intense than for a short-term or summer opportunity in a low-skilled sector. If you just want to pay your way through your travels, you will be looking at different job opportunities abroad from if you want to build an international profile in your field.
Where do you want to go and why?
Remember that living and working abroad is not the same thing as being a tourist or even a Study Abroad student. What you do abroad will be at least as important as where you are, if not more. Consider what factors and values are important to you, whether that be distance from family, weather, cultural practices etc.
Do you want to earn money or are you content to have room and board covered?
If you are content to get by as long as room and board are covered, you might consider a short or medium-term volunteering scheme like WWOOF or Workaway, where hosts usually provide food and housing while you work. This will be easier than finding a paid job, which may be difficult even for locals.
What visas and paperwork will you need to work abroad?
If you are planning to obtain a proper job outside Europe you will have to obtain the proper work visa, which can involve a dizzying amount of bureaucracy and patience. It will take much time, patience and determination, and you may even need to secure a job offer before you get into the country.
How well do you speak the local language and are you ready to learn or practise it?
You may have been able to study abroad in English, but working without knowledge of the local language is more difficult. Research opportunities available to English speakers; you may be constrained to the teaching sector or the tourism industry. If your local language skills are a bit rusty, consider spending some time on an intensive language course before going abroad.
What professional or personal connections do you have in that part of the world?
Local connections will not only help you transition into daily life (find housing and set up a phone plan and bank account), but they are invaluable in finding job opportunities. It is possible to network from abroad (target interesting companies, ask for Skype interviews, follow relevant people on social media), but you may need to go to the country first and then establish connections if you don't already have them.
What is the cost of daily life and settling in?
The cost of food, housing and transportation can vary between cities and regions. Plan ahead for upfront costs like housing deposits, visa fees, medical insurance etc. Expatistan is a good resource to research and compare the cost of living.
How much savings will you need to cover you until you are paid?
Consider the current exchange rate and the average cost of living when calculating how long you can last with your savings. Keep in mind that it will probably take a while to get a job and/or receive your first wages.
Research, Research, Research!
The more specific information you have about your destination, the better. Knowledge of local trends will allow you to identify the different opportunities available and tailor your job search.
- Identify country and regional sector availabilities and demands.
- Learn about the workplace culture and cultural expectations.
- Research CV and cover letter guidelines from around Europe and the rest of the world.
- Explore connections to your destination country in your personal and professional network (networking resources available in "Translating Study Abroad into Employment Opportunities" section).
Resources for country-specific research
- Going Global (for current Exeter students)
- International Business Culture and Business Etiquette guide for Europe
- UK Prospects "Working abroad"
Stepping-stone opportunities abroad
A short-term temporary placement could be a starting point to grow your network in-country and later transition to another opportunity.
- Teach English abroad with the British Council (undergraduates and recent graduates).
- Work in the summer for Camp America.
- Participate in the European Voluntary Service.
- Work in the US, Canada, Australia or New Zealand through BUNAC.
- Work as an au pair taking care of children and teaching English.
Working Holiday visa
For UK citizens, working holiday visas are available in specific countries. In most cases they tend to be valid for up to 12 months, are aimed at citizens from 18 to 30 years old, and they will allow you to work while you travel. Some countries have yearly caps, but they are generally easier to get than long-term work visas.
Are you considering a postgraduate degree?
Whether you are considering further study at Exeter, in the UK or abroad you will need to choose your route with care and make sure that the course/programme fits both with your interests and also with your longer-term career plans. There is however a lot to think about when considering further study, including the subject, length of study period, location, reputation of the university and the course (e.g. with employers), links with industry, future career prospects, on-course training and development, access to appropriate facilities (e.g. laboratory equipment), funding etc.
Why earn a postgraduate degree abroad?
- Lower tuition fees than in the UK
- Develop and maintain a global network in your professional field
- Study and research a specialism not available in the UK
- Learn or practice a foreign language
- Challenge yourself and stand out in a competitive job market
- Lower cost of living and/or different quality of life