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Return to Swarthmore

Preparing to return to Swarthmore can be bittersweet - it can be hard to say goodbye to new friends or your homestay family, you might miss the local dishes that you grew to love or perhaps you will no longer be speaking the local language in your daily life! At the same time, the prospect of reconnecting with your family or your Swat friends can be very exciting. So many mixed feelings! 


For some students the return from abroad does not represent any major difficulties; however, for others, it may present serious challenges. Saying goodbye to people you were used to seeing on a daily basis; leaving the lifestyle developed abroad; and missing the sights, sounds, foods, etc. of the abroad location may cause a true sense of loss. This is sometimes referred to as a "reverse culture shock". You may feel like you look at situations with other eyes - what once looked so familiar, may now look different and this can cause a real sense of unease. Or you may feel like you went through a life-changing experience, and it may be difficult to share with your friends at family just how and why that was so. 

Just like studying abroad, the return to life in the U.S. and study at Swarthmore might take you through a few ups and downs, and will likely take patience and resilience. When possible, seek out ways to talk about your experiences and express your new interests, with friends old and new. At Global Engagement we are always happy to talk to you about your experience - stop by for a chat! Should you find that your adjustment back to life and studies at Swarthmore is interfering with your studies, personal health, relationships, or other aspects of your well-being, consider consulting with advisors and health professionals at Swarthmore.

Practical Matters

Be sure to resolve any financial matters before you leave; they are so much more difficult to handle once you're no longer local. This include small things such as outstanding library fines and bigger issues such as security deposits. In the case of security deposits, make sure you understand how the deposit will be returned (i.e., the amount, currency, where it will be returned and when). Programs will not send your final transcript if you have outstanding financial obligations. If you receive any refunds from your study abroad program, please contact your GEO Advisor.

Don't  leave your study abroad location with unfinished academic work unless the program has explicitly stated that this is expected of you. Even in such cases, please notify your GEO Advisor, and let them know what the deadline is for completion.  An important cause of academic failure by students who’ve studied abroad is non-compliance with academic deadlines for receipt of academic work or other program policies such as attendance.

Welcome Back Gathering

Each semester, returned study abroad participants are invited to the Welcome Back Gathering. This is great event where you get to talk with other study abroad participants, share stories, and learn about many ways to maximize the abroad experience while back on campus. Also: good food and cake! If you're interested in promoting study abroad or otherwise working with Global Engagement, let us know. We'd love to hear from you!

The Lang Center 

The Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility supports faculty, students, and staff interested in issues of social justice and social action with advice and guidance, space for meetings and events, transportation resources, as well as funding for entrepreneurial projects, non-profit social justice internships, and public scholarship curricular design. The Lang Center encourages faculty, staff, and students to be involved with surrounding communities both locally and globally, for mutual benefit and reciprocally enriching relationships. 


Alumni Perspective

“Living abroad transforms both the views you see and the views you hold. The scenes, languages, and customs that we grow up with shape our minds in unseen ways that only another cultural environment can expose. After graduating from Swarthmore, I spent two years living and teaching in Japan, an experience that helped me to recognize my cultural assumptions and practice open-mindedness, perspective-taking, and empathy. These ways of thinking have continued to enrich my life and career long after my return to the States.” 

Umi Keezing ‘19, current Study Abroad Advisor for Global Engagement (Japan, JET Program, 2019-2021). Sign says "Erimo Misaki," a cape on Japan's northernmost island.