It’s that time of year again: Sophomores are planning for study abroad.
More than half of all GW undergraduates will study in a different country during their time here, and the number of students going abroad has steadily increased since 2001.
In a community that is constantly pressuring students to go overseas, we aren’t always informed about the negatives. I’ve come to realize that we only get a few years at GW, and this is not the time to leave.
Living in another country for three to nine months can have long-lasting consequences once you return – a lesson I learned the hard way.
When I was in high school, I studied abroad twice. My first experience was for a few weeks in Suwa, Japan my freshman year. The second time, I decided to spend my entire junior year living with a host family in Nanjing, China. While my immersion was difficult because of language and cultural barriers, it was nothing compared to the shock I experienced when I came home.
Back in the U.S., I found it difficult to relate to the people I had missed most, which left me feeling frustrated and lonely for months after I’d returned.
It’s common for students coming home from abroad to experience frustration, anger, loneliness, confusion or a sense of distance from their American friends and family. Though this is only temporary, it can last up to a year after an abroad experience.
Suddenly, you may feel held back by reverse culture shock during one of the most important times of college: the second half of junior year and senior year.
This is the best time to build relationships with professors and make connections as you apply for internships, take on a leadership role in a student organization or start looking for a post-graduation job. When you return home, reverse culture shock can make catching up even more difficult.
For many students, study abroad is a valuable part of GW’s culture. Some say it was one of the reasons they decided to enroll here, since the University has 300 programs from which to choose, in over 60 countries. And studying in a different country of course can be beneficial: You gain travel experience, and depending on your major and location, can boost your résumé to stand out in the job market. . . .