This Collegial Conversation is a follow up to the NAFSA Webinar, Providing Post-Study Abroad Support - It's Easier Than You Think! which addressed the following:

Are you at a loss for delivering reentry support beyond the welcome back pizza party? This webinar will help you identify different avenues of reentry support for your returning students. Hear how partnering with other offices on campus and outside organizations can help address the academic reintegration, civic engagement, professional development, and the psycho-emotional aspects of the reentry process.

Participants

Webinar - Lisa ChappellLisa Chappell - Presenter
Smith College

Lisa Chappell is the assistant dean for international study at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. After living for more than ten years in Chile, Lisa returned to the United States to pursue her master's degree in international education from the School for International Training. She is originally from Oregon and has been involved in international education for most of her life both as a participant and a practitioner.

Webinar - Joseilyn Inaldo Josielyn Inaldo - Presenter
Beloit College

Josielyn Inaldo is the assistant director and international student adviser at the Office of International Education at Beloit College. Josie earned her MA in International Education from the School for International Training (SIT), her BA at Marist College, and spent her junior year abroad at Royal Holloway, University of London. In addition, she has taught English in Japan and advised language teachers for the JET program in Fukui Prefecture.
Webinar - Christine PiraniChristine Pirani - Presenter
Babson College

Christine Pirani is an education abroad adviser at Babson College. She earned her BA from Colby College and master's from Lesley University. She has worked at Babson College for four years. Pirani develops and implements predeparture/postreturn programming; advises undergraduate semester abroad programs in Europe, the Middle East, Australia, and the Pacific Rim; and co-advises on programs in Middle and South America.

Mandy ReinigMandy Reinig - Moderator
Pennsylvania State University-Altoona

Mandy Reinig is the education abroad advisor at Penn State Altoona and has been in that position for four years. She is also a part-time ESL instructor and is completing her second master's degree in TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) this month (May). Additionally, she holds a MA in Latin American studies from Ohio University. Reinig currently serves as the AREA Network Leader for NAFSA.


Why are re-entry programs so important?

As education abroad professionals our job is to send students out into the world to have trans-formative experiences. If we're successful, these "transformed" students return to their campuses and describe their study abroad experience as "awesome, it changed my life." By providing effective, holistic reentry support the education abroad office can help students process, articulate and apply the study abroad experience as well as the transformation that has taken place.

What are the first steps in creating a re-entry program?

Finding a re-entry program that works will most likely take some trial and error. It's frustrating to go through the effort of planning a dinner or party and then have only a handful of students attend. At Babson, we decided to work with what we knew students were already interested in: their job and internship search. We knew that they often had a difficult time talking about their experience in any detail other than, "I loved it," so we decided to create an event with our career office based around that idea. We've had great success with this event.

If an office doesn't really have the resources, funding and/or personnel, what is one way that can still aid their students in re-entry?

Since there isn't going to be a "magic" recipe or "do all, end all" activity, we suggest a combination things:

  1. Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration. Find people on your campus to share resources
  2. If collaboration isn't an option then posting as much information online as possible would be the next suggestion. Create reentry modules that address different areas of reentry support that students can access on their own time
  3. Take the Resource Starter from the webinar and customize it to your campus environment and post that to your office's website and see if other offices will be willing to post it as well.


What are the key ways you have found to get students interested in your re-entry programs?

The key ways for Beloit College students is to make it personal and creative; so that they have ownership of their re-entry process. Students are motivated to do symposium presentations so that they can share with their faculty mentors and their peers. Having their presentation titles on their transcripts and being able to use their research in their other classes is also helpful.

If you had infinite resources, what would your ideal re-entry program look like?

The ideal re-entry program would help support students in several areas: psycho-emotional, academics, civic engagement, career help and finding paths to go abroad again. There would be professional counselors to work with students as they face their frustrations, isolation upon their return. There would be social networks and chat forums where students can talk to others in their similar situations, again with study abroad professionals moderating these interactions and giving advice to channel their feelings into constructive action either in their studies or in civic engagement. Career workshops would be held, cosponsored with Career Offices, to help market their skills and identify global work opportunities. A research symposium would regularly be held to showcase the learning that happened while abroad. Returning students would be able to help with welcoming international students on-campus and advocate for others to study abroad. Not only would there be the annual photo contest, there would be other avenues for students to express their experiences; through plays, poetry readings, films, starting non-profit globally-minded organizations and essays culled from journal entries written abroad. There would also be a resource piece for the parents, the faculty and friends to help their student with their re-entry process. Again, one would have to implement and execute these diverse areas of support by keeping in mind that students may have different needs in different areas during different time-frames (in Lisa Chappell's research being one month, then three and six months after returning home).

How do you assess if your re-entry program is beneficial and useful?

We've found that asking the students if they found the program beneficial and useful has been very helpful. They complete a short evaluation at the end of the program, answering questions about the timing of the event, the content provided, etc. Students also give suggestions for other things they would like to see in their re-entry programming.