Santa Clara University

Study Abroad

Welcoming Your Student Back

Dear Parents,

Is your son or daughter returning home from studying abroad or has recently returned home? Whenever your student returns from their abroad experience, we wanted to share some helpful information. We have compiled these materials to help you welcome them back from what we hope has been a fulfilling experience.

Re-entry, of course, involves more than just the practical questions of registration, housing, etc.  While this may or may not be your child's first time abroad, many questions probably run through your mind.  What will it be like to be with each other again?  What should you expect right away . . . and in the long term?  You should expect stories and photographs, souvenirs and excitement . . . and a re-adjustment process.

We often hear students say that returning home was much more difficult than going abroad.  There can be tears and confusion, misunderstandings and disappointment.  But it can also be a time when, while recounting stories and sharing photos, the real significance of the experiences emerges.  Therefore, we would like to share some ideas that may help you prepare for this re-adjustment and assist your child with the process.

Your Student is Returning Home...Some Things to Expect?

What changes should you prepare for and how can you help your child re-adjust?  Not every student will change in the same way, and not all changes are permanent . . . but you might prepare for some of the following possibilities:

A new style.  Students often adopt a popular style as a way of fitting in while they are abroad. A new way of dressing which reflects (or flaunts) the international experience.  Adopting a "foreign" style of dress allows students to assert their individuality and independence, and may help students hold on to the international experience as long as possible.  It may reflect a new "international" identity, or they may just like the way the clothes look and feel!

Smoking/alcohol use.
  For some students their new identity includes the use of tobacco.  As you know, in many countries smoking is more tolerated and/or fashionable than in the U.S..  Unfortunately we at International Programs have no secret trick to convince young people to stop smoking, but believe it is important and will do all we can to help them return to a more healthy lifestyle.  It will also come as no surprise to you that students use alcohol abroad (just as they do at home).  Indeed the laws in most European countries allow drinking at 18. The good news is that our experience tells us that many students develop a mature attitude toward drinking while overseas (often after initial over indulgence).  Overseas, alcohol is no longer a "forbidden fruit" and it is not the center of student social life for most European students.

A weight gain or loss.  How serious is this?  If not extreme, it is likely to re-adjust with time.  It's not unusual to love the foreign food and overeat "while you have the opportunity" or not like the foreign food and eat as little as possible.  Exercise patterns may change too.

A craving for different food.  This "problem" offers an ideal opportunity for your child to share the international experience with you by preparing some of his or her favorite dishes.  Go to the grocery store together, buy what is needed and get to work in the kitchen!

Occasional difficulty finding the right words in English, especially when excited.  Students who make a sincere effort to immerse themselves in a new language will have developed key phrases that "come automatically" in certain situations . . . phrases that may be equivalent to "wow," "right," or "you know," in American English.  When this happens take pride in your child's fulfilling one of study abroad's principal goals-thinking in another language-and give him or her a compliment.

A passion for reading and talking about the host country.  A common complaint among study abroad returnees is that people ask them, "So, how was El Salvador? (or Kenya, Costa Rica, Japan) . . . and expect an answer in 10 words or less.  Please take the time to listen.  Not just in the first day or week but expect comments to be forthcoming for a period of time. It is surprising how uninterested their friends on campus might really be in what was a life changing experience for the study abroad student.  Do be prepared to keep listening as the experiences gradually are sifted through.

These are just a few of the "symptoms" displayed by a just returned study abroad student. Obviously it is by no means exhaustive as each student's experience is different.

Resources at Santa Clara

We at SCU's International Programs Office have designed several programs for returning study abroad students to help them in their transitioning back to the campus community. For more information, please visit:

We especially hope you can encourage your student to participate in as many of these opportunities as they can manage:

We consider returning study abroad students to be very valuable assets on campus and aim to provide every opportunity for them to continue their personal and academic growth after returning to SCU.  We have worked closely with these students before they left and, like you, are looking forward to their return to the Santa Clara family.

Further Readings:


Contact the Staff

We hope you find this information to be useful as you prepare to welcome your student home.  Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.  Thanks for helping make it possible for your child to take part in study abroad--one of the most rewarding and memorable aspects of college life. 


Barbara Colyar, Director of Study Abroad,
Susan Popko, Associate Provost for International Programs,
Lori Johnson, Business Manager,

Paul Soukup, S.J., Associate Director, Special Programs,

International Programs Office

Santa Clara University
Phone: 408-551-3019, Fax 408-554-2340

Helpful Phone Numbers at SCU


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