Alumni Portal for Study Abroad Students
Alumni Portal for Study Abroad Students
No matter how long you have spent abroad immersed in a different culture, there is no better feeling than coming back home and seeing your family.
Unfortunately, it may take longer than you expected to adjust back to life in the United States, and accompanying this process may be feelings of frustration and anxiety. We want you to know that you're not alone when it comes to adjusting back to your original routine. In fact, these are feelings that exchange students experience more often than not. We want to assist you in every way possible by providing resources to ease your way back into the American culture. In addition to the resources found below, we encourage you to review this document for further suggestions on activities to do once you return home!
Reverse Culture Shock
Reverse culture shock is a common reaction to returning home from studying abroad. It's an emotional and psychological stage of re-adjustment, similar to your initial adjustment to living abroad. Feelings of loneliness and frustration are common. You may feel homesick about your host country, or like a stranger in your own home. While dealing with these feelings, it's important that you create an outlet for your emotions rather than keeping them to yourself. Try leaning on close friends and family who will be happy to support you with open arms.
“When coming back to the US after my time in Japan, I wasn’t expecting to feel strangely displaced in my home country, but this may be a symptom of your own reverse culture shock and it’s completely normal. Allow yourself time to readjust— you’ve just spent the whole summer in a culture that is vastly different from the United States, so give yourself the space to rest, write down your emotions, draw, or whatever else you need to re-acclimate.”
-Elise (YFU alum to Japan, 2017; Japan Pre-Departure Orientation Alumni Assistant, 2019)
Try a blog!
One of the best ways to sort out your feelings during this time of transition is to write about it! Whether through an email chain to friends and family or an online blog, expressing yourself and telling your story can be liberating. To get ideas for blog posts, try reading through your travel journals or looking through your pictures. Relive your experiences and inspire others to become more globally open-minded—take advantage of this opportunity! Send your blog URL to email@example.com to be featured on our site!
School or Community Presentation
By doing school and community presentations, you have the ability to show others how going abroad with YFU can change their lives! Remember, if you are a scholarship recipient, you are required to do a presentation. Please reach out to Director of Philanthropy Rebecca Rorke if you have any questions on this requirement.
This school presentation template was created by a YFU alum for your use! Click 'File' and 'Make a Copy' to use the template for your presentation. You are also encouraged to create your own PowerPoint and/or video to present. If you need any help in preparing or conducting your presentation, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once your presentation is complete, be sure to fill out the Presentation Form.
The "Real World"—What Comes Next?
Eventually, you will begin to feel comfortable back in the United States, but it may never feel the way it used to. You’ve now gained vital experiences and knowledge that have helped you develop into a globally-minded human being. As you incorporate your host culture into your daily life, your perspective between your host country and your home in the United States will become balanced and you will forever be a changed person.
Stay Connected with YFU USA!
YFU Leadership Opportunities
As experts of the YFU exchange experience, study abroad alumni are the perfect YFU leaders and volunteers! See below for the various leadership opportunities YFU currently offers to its alumni.
YFU will be rolling out an Alumni Program in Fall 2019 – keep an eye out for this announcement shortly!
Intern with YFU
You've already experienced the program. Now, you can learn what YFU does behind-the-scenes! YFU USA interns have the opportunity to learn more about international service, cross-cultural communications, community outreach, and more. YFU interns are directly integrated into organizational operations and serve a crucial role in interacting with students, host families, and a network of dedicated volunteers across the country.
YFU welcomes students with excellent verbal and written communication skills from both for-credit and not-for-credit programs. Interns should be proficient with Internet and Microsoft Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook). YFU alumni are strongly encouraged to apply.
Instructions to apply for a YFU internship can be found here.
Volunteer with YFU
Would you be interested in interviewing prospective study abroad students, reviewing their scholarship applications, or assisting with orientations local to your area? Check out these volunteer opportunities and more on YFU’s Volunteer webpage!
Additionally, if you are a summer Japan exchange alumnus, we welcome you to apply for a leadership position at the yearly Japan Pre-Departure Orientation (JPDO). If you are a semester or yearlong exchange alumnus, we welcome you to apply for a leadership position at the yearly National Pre-Departure Orientation (NPDO). More information and applications for the JPDO and NPDO positions open early each spring.
The College Search
Thinking about what to do after high school can be a daunting task—we’ll be the first to admit that! But as a YFU exchange alumni, you are in the top tier of high school students when applying for college. YFU is here to help you sort through your options so you can make an educated, informed decision about your future. Explore the abundant options your future can hold!
Have you ever thought about taking a gap year to explore the possibilities the world has to offer? Though the idea of “taking a year off” might seem scary and out of the norm, participating in a gap year program is a great way to pursue your passions, expand your knowledge, and discover yourself! More than 80% of students that choose to take a gap year before college believe this experienced added to their employability after college graduation.
YFU USA offers several different gap year programs. You can read about them here! All YFU gap year programs include placement with a carefully selected host family, student support, and orientation support.
The Right College for You
Searching for a college can be overwhelming. You will want to look at the data on admission rates and programs of study and should reflect on what you want to study further. Believe it or not, this process can be fun! Follow the guide below to “ace” the college search.
Familiarize yourself with your wants & needs
Challenge yourself with these questions. This will help you understand your wants and needs prior to looking at specific colleges and universities.
Where do I want to attend college—how far do I want to be from home?
What kind of environment do I want to live in—traditional college campus, urban city, or somewhere in between?
What size of school will I feel comfortable calling my home—one with a large student body or one with a more small-knit community?
What do I want to study—specifically OR generally?
Does this college offer courses on the language I would like to study? (You can gain credit from your exchange experience in order to test out of language requirements in College!)
Will I want to study abroad during my college career—if so, where?
Do I know what level of education I need to be successful in my chosen profession? Can the college/university provide a full education or will I need to transfer for graduate school?
What does this college have to offer in terms of scholarships, grants, social engagement, and quality academics?
Narrow it down
Think about your passions, interests, and goals. Do you want to be involved in theater, or sports, maybe music? Does the school offer everything you want for your college career?
Being a YFU alumni, will you want to study abroad again? More and more, Americans are pursuing their education on foreign soil—whether that is for a summer break, semester, year, or longer.
Finally, think about the organizations you might want to be a part of outside of the classroom. Most colleges have language clubs, but many are starting to highlight clubs that promote multiculturalism. If the college you choose doesn't have one, take the initiative to start one you identify with on your campus!
Visiting a college can make a world of difference when it comes to making your final decision. Most colleges provide campus tour information on their websites. Simply visit their admissions site and register for a time to tour the school.
Applying for college can be overwhelming. How do you portray your best attributes and accomplishments to an admissions officer who only has the chance to get to know you through writing? Luckily, over 74% of YFU students report having an advantage on college applications after their experience abroad!
College Essay Tips
Thinking about discussing your YFU exchange experience in your college essay? See below for a few tips on how to purposefully share your YFU story.
Step 1: Personal Reflection
It’s important to think about how this whole experience started in the first place. Ask yourself the following questions, and jot down some ideas.
What made you want to study abroad in high school?
Think about how you prepared for this experience and what your expectations were. How were your expectations met or not met?
What goals did you set for yourself before you traveled abroad? How did you achieve those goals? Did those goals change over the course of your travels?
Step 2: Personal Development
Studying abroad is a unique experience for everyone. Think about how you may have changed or stayed firm in your beliefs through this process.
How were you able to adjust to other cultures? How did you adjust to your home abroad, as well as your return to the United States? What personal mechanisms did you use?
How did you overcome challenges, and how did they strengthen your leadership skills?
Key words that will stand out in your essay: Open-mindedness, communicative, flexibility, adaptability, strong sense of self, global understanding, self-reliance.
Step 3: Tie it all together!
Once you have brainstormed how the experience impacted you, it is important that you connect this experience to your future experiences.
Did this opportunity help you discover a new passion? Consider new ideas for a future career path? Prepare you to be a successful student or employee?
What can you contribute to your college/university of choice because of your time abroad?
Choose references who know you personally and/or professionally. Overall, teachers, coaches, managers, and mentors are all great people to think about asking for a recommendation. Just allow ample time for your reference to write the letter, and be sure to send them a thank-you letter after!
During your time abroad it is likely that you acquired foreign language skills. Whether you have basic proficiency, conversational skills, or complete fluency, you have the opportunity to acquire credit and/or test out of language requirements at your selected college!
To do so, be sure to contact your college’s admissions office to inquire about the process.
Make sure you put the same effort forth for scholarships as you did for the college itself. There are a variety of scholarships available for students based on their grades, studies, study abroad country, and diversity.
American Field Service/Rotary Overseas/Youth for Understanding/U.S Citizens Living Overseas Scholarships are open to students who have had a study abroad experience for at least one semester during high school. The scholarship is also available to U.S. citizens who live overseas as expatriates and study in high schools with American-type high school curricula. Students must submit an essay discussing their international experience.
Award: $20,000 ($5,000 per year)
The Gilman Scholarship Program aims to diversify the kinds of students who study and intern abroad and the regions where they go.
The Gilman Scholarship is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is open to U.S. undergraduate students who demonstrate high financial need.
Scholarship Search Engines
As the organization behind the SAT and AP exams, College Board upholds high standards for the scholarships they allow on their site. This site is especially helpful because the scholarships apply to a broad area of interest and application rather than institution-specific scholarships.
College Net is a website that hosts student forums based on various topics of the college application process. Each week, whichever student receives the most votes for leading an interesting forum will be awarded a scholarship of $3,000-$5,000. This site gives you the best of both worlds: to easily gather information about the college application process while simultaneously getting the opportunity to win scholarships!
As its name suggests, Scholarship Points is based on a point reward system. The more points you collect—by simply reading blogs, taking quizzes, playing online games, and performing other daily activities—you become eligible and gain access for more and more scholarships. It’s definitely a fun and unique way to search for scholarships!
Fast Web, Scholarships, and Scholarship Monkey are all enormous scholarship database sites that constantly receive updates on newly available scholarships.
Employers are always searching for people who embody intercultural awareness and understand the increasing diversity of our world. You learned essential innovative skills during your time abroad that will help you stand out in a pool of applicants. Here are some helpful tips to write a successful resume!
Mold your study abroad experience to fit your personal interests, ambitions, and career goals
Make connections between your travel experiences and what you want to accomplish
Include skills/characteristics acquired from study abroad experience such as:
Ability to cope with failure
Sense of self
Tolerance for differences
“When I applied for jobs, I was able to highlight my previous cultural and language experiences” -Jordan Burns (Brazil, 2008)
Basic Resume Template
Careers in International Education
There are plenty of long-term opportunities for you to continue down this path of cultural awareness.
“While nothing is set in stone, there is always some reassurance and confidence that comes from having a general idea of what you want to be. Building a global community is a lot of work, but the characteristics that I have gained through YFU make the task seem all the more realistic and attainable.” - Misha (Campus Ambassador 2015-2016; Sweden 2013)
College Majors to Think About
Latin American Studies
Middle Eastern Studies
Peace Studies/Conflict Resolution
Where could you be working?
Federal and State Government
Foreign Service, US State Department, Foreign embassies, the Peace Corps
Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, US Department of Defense, US Agency for International Development
United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund
Public Relations Firms
What types of job positions could you hold?
Foreign Service Officer
International Relations Officer
International Au Pair
Teaching English Abroad
A great way to combine work and travel is to work abroad as an English Teacher. Becoming qualified to teach English as a Foreign or a Second Language can provide lasting and supportive assistance for landing a job in the future.
The most popular programs include TEFL, TESOL, and CELTA
Most of these programs are an intense, month-long course taught in various countries overseas
Many provide support for accommodations as well as the job search afterwards
The Japan Exchange and Teaching Program for U.S. citizens
Through international exchange and foreign language education, the organization aims to foster ties between Japanese and foreign youth.
Bachelor’s degree to apply (all majors are welcome)
Knowing Japanese and/or having a keen interest in Japan helps
If you are interested learn more on their website: jetprogramusa.org
Career Example from Alumni, Jordan Burns - Summer Brazil Program 2008
Path of Studies
Bachelor of Arts in Biology with Minors in International Health Studies and Comparative Religious Studies
Applied for and received a David L. Boren National Security Education Program Scholarship to fund a year of study (Portuguese language and global public health) in Brazil.
Master of Public Health in Global Epidemiology with a certificate in Socio-contextual Determinants of Health
Spent a summer practicum working at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ) in Brazil on a study about parental acceptance of the HPV vaccine.
Global Health Fellows Program II
Masters-level intern with the U.S. Agency for International Development
Worked on the malaria case management team within the Bureau for Global Health in support of the President’s Malaria Initiative
Currently working in Angola to support the USAID Mission’s malaria program
Valuable Tips from Jordan
Make it a priority to search for study abroad funding opportunities for college.
Seek out researchers working in different parts of the world to collaborate with during graduate school.
Highlight your previous cultural and language experiences when applying for jobs.
“Not only did my YFU experience provide me with an amazing opportunity to experience a new culture, but it provided me with the courage to pursue educational and professional interests outside of the United States.”
From all of us at Youth For Understanding - Welcome Home!