You’re home after one of the most incredible, memorable experiences of your life. Your view of the world has shifted and you’ve changed in every way, yet things at home seem largely the same. Picking up where you left off may feel like a step backward, so how do you move forward? Luckily, there’s a place for you as a study abroad returnee and ways you can stay connected with the world you’ve come to know and the person you’ve become.
1. Find your community
When your friends can’t listen to one more story about your time abroad, join a returnee group and talk your heart out with fellow wanderlusters who understand the awesome experience you’ve had:
- UC Irvine hosts a returnee seminar
- UC Santa Barbara has a returnee career conference and a club for returnees
- UC Los Angeles has a University Culture & Life Abroad organization
- Lessons from Abroad is a regional conference in California where you can network with fellow returnees
2. Recruit at the next study abroad fair
Think back to the flood of questions you had before you studied abroad. You now have the answers! Share your firsthand experience with interested students at the next study abroad fair. It’s a short time commitment (usually just an hour) and returnees like you are the stars of the show. Check with your campus study abroad office for dates.
3. Turn your experience into a job
Studying abroad can deliver a serious return on your investment. Some study abroad returnees get paid positions; others earn academic credit or references. Here are a few examples:
- Get a job working with the study abroad team at UC Davis
- Apply for the Global Intern Certificate program at UC Santa Barbara to earn a reference you can use in your job hunt
- Work in the international education office at UC Santa Cruz
Bonus: Lessons from Abroad is a great place to take your résumé, access funding opportunities for grad school and learn how to market your experience after graduation.
4. Host an exchange student
Remember when you first stepped off the plane in a new country? Whether you felt a rush of excitement or a touch of loneliness, a local buddy could have enhanced those first days. Now you can connect with international students coming to your UC campus and help them adjust to Californian culture. Show them all the great things about your home, just like others did for you. Your study abroad office can help set it up! Here are some examples:
- UC Irvine’s exchange partner program will match you up with an incoming international student (from your host country or another)
- UC Santa Barbara’s volunteer program lets you help an exchange student navigate the campus, learn the bus system and acclimate to student life
- UC Davis offers the opportunity to be a Global Ambassador and earn credit for guiding international students
5. Keep talking
Keep your language skills polished by joining a language or international club. You’ll meet international students who speak the language you studied abroad and other UC study abroad returnees. A quick Internet search will help you find the right club on your campus, but here are a few examples:
- French and Italian Club at UC Davis
- Spanish Club at UC Santa Barbara
- Cal Japan Club at Berkeley
- Accents are Sexy at UC Los Angeles – a multi-language and culture group
- Persian Club at UC Irvine
Studying abroad changed my life. It freed me. It enabled me to find out who I really am when independent, free from prior influences, and above all, free from fear. — UCEAP Alumni
6. Own your global identity
After living abroad, your identity will take on additional layers. People generally form communities based on a shared identity such as age, nationality, ethnicity or family. But as a global citizen, you think differently; you’ve been introduced to communities beyond the borders of home and can readjust notions of self within a global context. Your expanded global identity is a gift best unpacked when you return home. Here are some programs that can help you do that:
- Add a Global and International Studies (GIS) minor to your academic plan at UC Davis
- Earn a Global Leadership Certificate at UC Irvine
7. Go abroad again
If you’ve caught a travel bug, why deny it? Some 48% of people who study abroad go on to work internationally. If you’re close to graduation, consider grad school outside the U.S. or international work or internship opportunities. If you still have time, a second study abroad program can help shape your résumé for an international career path.
8. Join the UCEAP Alumni network
Join the UCEAP alumni network to learn about awards, reunions and other celebrations held in California and around the world. You can also get support planning your own reunion with the friends you made abroad.
9. Share your story
Your story is awesome! Why not share it and inspire future UCEAP students? You can get in touch with UCEAP to share memories and photos of your experience or be a guest blogger for The Californian Abroad. You’ll have a forever link to share with friends, family and future employers.
This is a just a short list of the opportunities that are common to most campus study abroad offices. Check with your study abroad abroad office for additional opportunities.