For me, the hardest part of Study Abroad was coming back. Not only because I had had an amazing time and did not want to go back to my “normal” life, but also because of the very sad fact I discovered: NO ONE REALLY WANTED TO HEAR ABOUT EVERYTHING I DID! Yep, it’s true. Once you get back from Study Abroad, you’ve got hours and hours of stories and nostalgic reminders that no one else really wants to take the time to go into. Sure they’re interested in hearing about your experience, but for 3 hours? Ah, no.
So what can you do about it? Well, my advice for returnees is really more of the same that you’ve all heard before: stayin touch with people on your program, meet up with other returnees, get involved with the Study Abroad Office and, most importantly, learn to condense the most important stories you have into quick explanations. I want to talk about this last point, and a really great tool I did not know existed until last year: Digital Storytelling.
Digital Storytelling is basically what it sounds like: You make a short 3-5 minute video about your experience abroad, pick out pictures and music and record your “story” over it all. What makes this truly exceptional, though, is the time that it will take you to condense your whole experience into 3 minutes. This means that you really have to think through what really impacted you about your program, what left the biggest impression and why. Often, the story you end up with is not the one you started with. For your friends and family, it can be a really meaningful way of learning about the most important, most impactful or even just most fun component of your study abroad experience.
I made my Digital Story through the OIE office right here at DU. As a student worker here, I had the chance to be a “guinea pig” as my bosses decided how to use this tool for returnees. What I ended up with was a great, meaningful story about my time in Chile and why I had wanted to go there in the first place.
There have been several Digital Story sessions here at the OIE where returnees can come and, in a 2 day workshop, leave with a great Digital Story and having had the chance to hear about the experiences of the other students in the workshop too. I really encourage all of you to do this, not only because it can be something fun to share with your loved ones, but because it was a wonderful, positive experience and a chance to really look back on your experience. Mine happened to be 5 years ago (yes, I’m an old grad student) but I learned it was never too late to revisit those memories. Get in touch with us at the OIE office or follow the link below to find out how to get involved and watch some of the Digital Stories other alums have made!
Stephanie Roberts, OIE Graduate Peer Advisor