Study Abroad Re-entry Survey Results

The Study Abroad Re-Entry Results are in!

I sent out a short survey to study abroad professionals so I could take the “pulse” of study abroad re-entry for a couple guest articles I was writing. A summary of the results are below, followed by my own comments and suggestions based on the re-entry research and work I’ve been doing.

Here’s a summary of responses for each question (so far there have been 58 responses to the survey):

Question 1: What’s the biggest challenge your office faces when it comes to supporting students through re-entry shock?

Almost every single one of you who answered this question (48 out of 58 people responded to Q1) said your biggest challenge is getting students to participate in re-entry events. 

Here are the other challenges you mentioned, (I’m combining responses and paraphrasing here):

  • Getting students to deeply grasp how re-entry impacts them, then providing the right kind of support to meet their needs in a format that is attractive to them so they prioritize re-entry amid competing commitments.
  • Connecting with returnees – study abroad offices don’t hear from students when they return, and many students head right into the next phase of their studies or don’t even return to campus.
  • Study abroad staff just don’t have the bandwidth or resources to create more effective re-entry programming, even if they want to and see a need for it. Processing applications, advising pre-departure students, program promotion, and pre-departure orientations simply take priority.
  • On the upside, many of you noted that while the number of students who do attend re-entry programming is small (e.g., 12 out of 500 returnees), those students report having positive things to say about the event they attended.

Question 2: What level of importance does your office place on re-entry?

Here’s a screenshot of how you answered this question (57 out of 58 people answered).

bar graph showing 8 as highest response.

Question 3: What kind of professional development or learning have you (or others in your office) had around re-entry after study abroad?

Here are your most common responses (56 out of 58 answered this question):

  • Collaborate with the campus career center
  • Attend or lead conference sessions about re-entry at NAFSA, CIEE, the Forum, etc.
  • Personal research: reading articles, websites, drawing on personal re-entry experiences
  • Sharing best practices with colleagues
  • Getting involved in regional returnee conferences like Lessons from Abroad
  • Working with yours truly and Small Planet Studio šŸ™‚
  • A few people said they’ve had no re-entry training but would welcome it

Additional Comments

I also provided a space for additional comments about re-entry after study abroad – and you had a lot to share! Thanks to those of you who did (29 out of 58 of you!) – I loved reading them. Here’s a summary of these additional comments:

  • The most common comment? Re-entry programming is a necessity, not a luxury!
  • Many of you mentioned that you’d like to have more opportunities to discuss re-entry and learn new ways of supporting students.
  • There were several questions raised re: How can we help students really understand the importance of re-entry? That it’s on-going and not just something that happens the semester they return? How can we encourage students to attend our events? How can we do more for returnees with the many staff/time/financial limitations offices face? What do other schools do in regards to re-entry?
  • Shout out to the Lessons From Abroad conferences – there were several positive comments about LFA throughout the survey!
  • There were also a couple comments about social media and how being constantly connected to home while abroad affects today’s students’ re-entry – this is a topic I’m also very interested in.

Where Do We Go From Here? 

First, thanks to YOU for sharing your thoughts and experiences! I’m delighted to see so much interest in re-entry. There are definitely big challenges when it comes to providing effective re-entry support BUT the good news is that there ARE solutions.

After my own struggles with re-entry (you can read my re-entry story here), and 20+ years in int’l education helping countless students and professionals through global transitions, I recognized the great need for more effective re-entry language, concepts, and activities that fit how we live and travel in 21st century.

I’ve spent the past several years digging into the re-entry experience. I’ll be honest: it’s been a long and challenging road. I say this not to complain but to share that I know where you’re coming from as a study abroad professional and I understand your re-entry programming struggles.

I’ve found that although returnees complain about the challenges of re-entry, most avoid re-entry programming. At first I was frustrated by this…then I became fascinated.

I began talking and working with returnees, reading widely, and then developing, testing, and getting feedback on the new re-entry language, concepts, and activities I’ve developed over the past few years — and I’m happy to tell you that I’m getting excellent feedback from returnees – and those who work with returnees. I’d like to share it all with you! Subscribe below for your Quickstart Guide for Re-entry!