CAPS offers program for returning study abroad students

Elizabeth Campbell

Nathaniel Whittemore said he did not know how to respond when friends asked him what his summer was like.

The Weinberg senior’s research trip, which began in Hungary, went through Israel, Palestine, Uganda and other conflicted countries, and ended in Rwanda, could not be summed up with “good or great or amazing,” Whittemore said.

“It’s not as easy as just having been a good experience,” he said. “Being abroad can sort-of fundamentally change your perception.”

“Reverse Culture Shock,” a four-part workshop to help students who have studied abroad “reintegrate into their home culture,” begins today at 4 p.m. This collaborative effort between Counseling and Psychological Services and the Northwestern Study Abroad Office seeks to help students deal with life after studying abroad, said Jodi Mulder, a CAPS staff member and clinical social worker.

The pilot program will continue Tuesdays through Nov. 8 at the CAPS Life Skills Center, 619 Emerson St.

Re-entering life in the United States can be a difficult transition, Mulder said. She described reverse culture-shock as the adjustment of “fitting back into your home country.”

Mulder said CAPS saw the need for a workshop to help study abroad returnees as more students are studying abroad and seeking help from CAPS upon their return to campus.

According to Bill Anthony, director of the Study Abroad Office, 21 percent of graduating seniors in 2004 had studied abroad. More than 600 NU students studied abroad last year.

Mulder is coordinating the program and plans to run the workshops in a group discussion format with lectures covering topics such as sharing the experience with others, managing conflicting emotions about American life, staying in touch with the host country, and reconnecting with family and friends.

The concerns of study abroad returnees tend to be similar, Mulder said.

“It’s important for students to realize that whenever you go through a major transition, that it’s oftentimes helpful to get support from students and staff who have had similar experiences,” Mulder said.

Weinberg senior Kate Eyerman, who spent last year studying in Cairo, Egypt, said talking with friends who were also re-entering the United States eased her transition.

She described her return as a “complete internal rollercoaster of mixed emotions.”

“I was really excited about coming back, seeing my family and my friends, and for little things like having a New York bagel and a slice of pizza,” Eyerman said. “But it was weird suddenly being inundated with English, and I wasn’t used to the efficient lifestyle that is America.”

Students can register for the workshop on the CAPS Web site and are encouraged to attend even if they cannot make the first session.

For more information, contact Paulette Stronczek at [email protected] or at (847) 491-2151.

Reach Elizabeth Campbell at [email protected]