The second annual re-entry conference was held on Saturday, September 27, 2008 at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus. This event brought together resources from across Minnesota to provide support to recently returned study abroad students. One-hundred twenty-three students attended, representing 12 institutions. Thirty volunteers from across the state helped to make this day a reality.
Students shared their stories from study abroad experiences; discussed their transition back to student life in Minnesota; attended rotating sessions on international careers, volunteering locally and internationally, working and interning abroad, effective story telling, travel writing, and resume critiques; participants won great door prizes and listened to impacting speakers.
Meredith McQuaid, Associate Vice President & Dean of the Office for International Programs at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, opened the conference and welcomed all to the campus.
Amanda Saum, a student from the College of Saint Catherine shared her perspective as a study abroad participant in Chile and Mexico.
Sitting on the plane, I found myself simultaneously more terrified and more excited than I had maybe ever been, a feeling perhaps some or many of you can relate to. As I embarked on an adventure, and it truly was a complete and total adventure, where I would take all of my classes in Spanish, live with a Chilean family, really and truly get culture shocked, and make some of the best friends of my life, I didn’t understand how much I would be impacted and later obsessed with the study of culture, people, and language.
My time abroad changed my perspective on my life, my country and culture, and what it means to be educated. It engaged my passion for Spanish and gave me a love of far-away places that I never knew I’d have.
Since returning from my study abroad experiences I have found myself with what I feel to be a new identity, a greater ability to embrace the unknown, a profound appreciation and value of culture, and a great comfort in my language skills that I never thought I’d have. I wouldn’t say that, by any means, I became fluent through my time in Spanish-speaking countries, but I know for a fact that the skills and experience I gained there propelled me to the level I’m at (probably more so than I have realized) and inspired me to involve myself with the Latino population here in my home country and home city.
The 2008 keynote speakerwas Kerala Taylor, former Editor in Chief of National Geographic Glimpse; a publication about real life abroad. Its stories focus on personal experiences, with the larger goal of promoting cross-cultural understanding. Their contributors immerse themselves in a foreign culture and share their stories, helping you to see the world in a new way.
Kerala's remarks were grounded in her own international experiences in Australia, Fiji, Ghana, Indonesia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and all over Europe. In addition, her own study abroad experience in Bolivia informed her worldview and helped with the creation of Glimpse. Kerala contends that Glimpse can play an important role in the media to inform Americans, US college students in particular, about the day-to-day in other countries.
Amazingly, at its most basic form, the human experience is remarkably similar no matter where you live: you wake up, you go to work or school, you spend time with family and friends, you eat, you sleep. By honing in on these smaller details, we wanted to remind people that hey, maybe what we think of as “foreign” isn’t really so foreign after all. But at the same time, we wanted to draw attention to those details and nuances that make cultures so compelling, so confusing, and so stunningly diverse.
It’s such a cliché to say that study abroad is a life-changing experience... But the fact is, it’s nearly impossible to immerse yourself in another culture for an extended period of time and come back home unchanged. Sure, there are superficial differences—maybe you prefer tea to coffee now, or you’ve gained an appreciation for hip-hop, or you’ve started wearing scarves. But on a deeper level, an entire portion of the world, which was once distant and two-dimensional, has now been humanized, brought to life. From now on, whenever you hear your host country mentioned, whether it’s on the news or during a lunchtime conversation, you will inevitably perk up, because now you care.
Contact the study abroad office at your home school for more details about re-entry activities taking place on your campus.