Tangles In Transition Unravel the Post-Study Abroad Experience for FCLC Students


Published: April 9, 2009

Imagine being on an exhilarating rollercoaster ride with sweeping twists and turns, and then suddenly, it jolts to a stop. Then you have to stumble out into the real world again and try to catch your footing. Many who have studied abroad have described the experience of returning to their schools to be similar to this rollercoaster ride. Every year, dozens of students at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) plant themselves in various locations all around the world to get an out-of-this country experience. For many of them, that’s exactly what they get… only to then have to return back to the reality of Fordham life.

Several students who had studied abroad said that they had a difficult time transitioning back to Fordham.

“I sometimes found myself caught between two worlds, and a lot of the time, I couldn’t figure out which I liked better,” said Joel Rowe, FCLC ’09, who studied abroad in Senegal last year.

“When I came home from France in June, I pretty much sank into an immediate depression,” said Meaghan Doherty, FCLC ’09. “Once I began classes, though, I snapped back into gear and appreciated America for what it is: home.”

When they came back from their study abroad locations, many found that their feelings about Fordham and America had changed.

“I couldn’t help feeling guilty that I lived in a world where money could be put to such seemingly extraneous use,” Rowe said. “Sometimes even the clothes I was wearing seemed egregious.”

“I remember feeling overwhelmed by how all of our actions as United States citizens affect developing countries all over the world,” said Heather Armijo, FCLC ’10. “This made me think of Fordham’s ethical practices, such as Fordham’s agreements with morally unethical corporations like Coca-Cola and the failure of Sodexo to come into agreement with fair food organizers.”

Reconnecting with friends in New York posed another obstacle for FCLC students.

“Coming back here, especially being a commuter, I’ve had to work hard to stay tight with my community here,” said Miti Patel, FCLC ’09. “I had to make sure I was connected with my friends and that we did stuff together… I appreciate my community and my friends a lot more.”

“My suitemates and I established an inseparable bond within the first few weeks of school,” Doherty said.

Some students also found the experience of relating to their friends and fellow FCLC students to be a difficult one when they returned from their study abroad experiences.

“I was in a program in which I was surrounded by the same 18 people for four months. It was hard to readjust to a community where you are more detached from everyone else,” Armijo said.

“I think we [study abroad students] all found that it was difficult to relate to our friends the same way, especially those who had not had an experience abroad,” Doherty said. “It’s an indescribable experience, and the culture shock is inevitable.”

Among the most difficult transitions for many FCLC students post-study abroad was the experience of returning to their lives in America.

“I did not have a good transition back because I had an entire three weeks that remained unoccupied before I found a job,” Doherty said. “I had nothing to take my mind off France and no one to speak French to. I felt that everything that I had accomplished overseas, the person that I became, was lost.”

“The whole ‘I went abroad and now I’m totally different’ phenomenon is trite and cliché, but there’s some truth to the statement,” Rowe said. “You see things differently than you did before—yourself, your home culture, your friends and family. It was sometimes difficult to do things like go out to dinner with friends.”

“On the first day of classes, I was overwhelmed with the fact that nothing has really changed here,” Armijo said.

Despite the difficulties transitioning back from an exotic, international location to FCLC, many of these students who had experiences abroad would recommend them to anyone.

“I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to study abroad. This experience challenges you in ways that you never deemed possible,” Doherty said. “I fell in love with the world as a result of my study abroad experience.”

“I think I’ve ultimately realized that no place is perfect, and there’s only so much we can do about the cultures we’re born into,” Rowe said. “What’s important, in my opinion, is for individuals to see these things and to focus on changing their own behavior—that’s how movements start and things change more on a macro-level. I think studying abroad really brought to light my own sense of responsibility in that cycle as an American.”