Studying abroad

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Studying abroad has many benefits, but it also has adversities that students experience when they return to life back home or on campus.

Feelings of depression, a sense of isolation or finding themselves on the outside of groups they fit into before are some of the difficulties experienced.

Stephen Prag, director of the Office of International Programs at Pacific University is aware of the adversities that students can encounter when they return home.

“I know in our evaluations, several students over the years have mentioned that they have had a much harder time adjusting to life when they get back than they expected,” Prag said.

In light of recognizing the feelings of depression or isolation in students, a series of classes are now being offered to students. Global Skills is a three part class, IS/Hum 311, 312 and 313 are taught by Jann L. Purdy and they deal with preparing for intercultural communication skills, communicating online about the experience while abroad and finally working through reverse culture shock.

“Jann Purdy is the professor and she developed this course which we think is a wonderful addition to the preparation and general level of support we are providing study abroad students.” Prag said.

Senior Rachel Fiegenbaum, who spent four months in Seville, Spain, when asked if she would have found this class helpful she said, “If it was available and I had time within my course schedule and the way my courses planned out, I would have looked into it.”

The feelings of depression, isolation and being on the outside can take its toll on students who might feel distant or disconnected from friends at home.

Senior April Lanz who studied for four months in Australia and then traveled for another two months in Asia, came home and found she had changed in ways her friends had not.

“When you study abroad you change a lot, or at least I did and then you expect everyone else to have changed too, but then you come back and realize no one has changed and it is exactly the same as where you left.” Lanz said. “You feel like you almost don’t belong anymore because you feel like you’re a different person in a way.”

According to Lanz, this change can bring on feelings of being an outsider.

“It is kind of that feeling where you feel like, oh man, I missed out on a lot of stuff and now I’m back and I want to be involved again.” Feigenbaum said. “It’s fine now, we’re hanging out ,everything is good.”

Some students might experience being alone in their experience and having someone to talk to is not always an outlet for students who were abroad.

“You don’t really have anyone to talk about it with, and no one to relate to.” Lanz said.

A sense of community with other students who have experienced studying abroad can help alleviate some of the depression or tensions in the re-entry process for some students.

For a student to have peers to talk to can make a difference with depression or feelings of isolation. Feigenbaum found relief in having friends that while not in the same places had also studied abroad.

“If I were to not gone alone, and like have none of my friends do it, I probably would have been really active in seeking out people who had studied abroad so I could hear about their experience, share my own and then kind of work through these emotions together instead of being isolated,” Feigenbaum said.

Studying abroad can be an amazing experience for a college student, but when it is and the re-entry process begins, coming home isn’t something a student has to do alone.


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