The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday March 27th

Back to reality: readjusting after study abroad

Allen O’Barr, director of Counseling and Psychological Services, said studying abroad can change students’ outlooks, especially if they’ve never been outside of the country before.

“I think the one that I see most frequently is students having gone abroad and having had a very eye-opening experience to the world and then when they return back to campus, they’re kind of back into the same old grind and it isn’t as exciting as study abroad,” he said.

O’Barr said he has seen students at CAPS who have had a great experience abroad and have difficulty coming back, as well as those who had a difficult experience while abroad, such as a traumatic event, and are now trying to process it.

“We do the same thing that we do with any student who came in with the issue,” O’Barr said.

Dori Brady, an adviser in the Study Abroad Office, said they do not usually see students struggling to readjust when they come back to campus because they are typically only working with students to transfer credits at that point. But she said people in the department knows reverse culture shock exists, and they try to address it.

Brady said students sometimes have unfulfilled expectations that friends are going to care more about their experience abroad.

Lucy Julian, a senior who studied abroad in Argentina in fall 2014 and Thailand in spring 2015, said during her first semester abroad she felt she was missing out on what was going on at home, but she adjusted better during her second semester away.

“The second semester, I kind of figured out how not to pay attention to what was going on (at home), which is important for getting the most out of your experience,” she said.

Julian said studying abroad also helped her figure out who her true friends are based on who stayed in contact with her while she was abroad.

Some students find it difficult to readjust to UNC’s academic rigor.

Sian Li, a junior who studied abroad in fall 2014 in England, said it was difficult to get back on track academically and get used to doing homework every day.

“I didn’t really put as much focus on my academics (when abroad),” she said. “I was more focused on getting to know people and travel around.”

Brady said the Study Abroad Office works to make sure students do not feel like they are behind when they return.

“We do try to choose programs ... that are of a similar rigor to UNC, but of course there are going to be different teaching styles when you go abroad,” she said.

Despite any difficulties in readjusting to campus life, most students agree that their study abroad experience has impacted them for the better.

Julian said she had a new appreciation for all the resources that UNC offers that schools abroad do not have, such as libraries and professors who answer emails more quickly.

Krista Rosenquest, a junior who studied in Sydney in spring 2015, said while she misses Australia and the friends she made there, it ultimately affected her for the better.

“I think like for myself I’ve become a little more outgoing just from going there and not knowing anyone and just being more comfortable with who I am and then the transfer over here,” she said.


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