For many students, meaningful cross-cultural learning continues in the weeks and months following the study abroad experience. This section details what you can do to ensure a smooth return to the U.S. and how you can continue your international and inter-cultural learning back home.

Program Evaluation

After your program has ended, you will be sent a program evaluation (completed online). The information you provide will be crucial in providing valuable information to students participating in future study abroad programs. Thank you for taking the time to complete this important step as you conclude your study abroad experience.

Customs Information

The U.S. government requires you to pay duty on goods purchased abroad and brought into the United States. For more information on the Customs process, click here. You should know and understand these requirements before you leave so that there are no problems when you return. You must declare expensive and/or foreign goods that you will take with you before you leave the United States so that you are not charged duty on them when you return. If you are taking imported articles such as cameras, binoculars, watches, laptops, etc., register these foreign-made articles with U.S. Customs (before you leave the U.S.) to avoid extra duty charges upon re-entry.

  • Your exemption is $800 (retail value) on articles acquired abroad, if:
  • Articles are for personal use or gifts
  • Articles accompany you
  • Articles are declared to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
  • You have been out of the country for at least 48 hours (Mexico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are exempt from the 48-hour limitation)
  • You have not claimed the exemption within the preceding 30 days
  • Articles are not prohibited or restricted

Upon your return, group purchases together and keep receipts ready for U.S. Customs inspection. Should you bring back foreign pharmaceuticals, have the prescriptions ready to present. You must declare, at the price paid, everything acquired abroad, including gifts given to you and articles worn or used. If you fail to declare or if you understate the value, penalties may be severe. You cannot bring meat, fruits, vegetables, protected cultural artifacts, or Cuban cigars into the United States.

Reverse Culture Shock

As difficult as it is to adapt to an entirely new culture, it can be just as challenging to come back home after being away for any period of time. It is best to know what you might encounter in order to prepare for this adjustment period. Expect to experience some measure of reverse culture shock. Reverse or re-entry shock can be defined as the unexpected confrontation with the familiar (R. Michael Paige). Remember that the world at home didn’t stop while you were gone. Upon your return home, you may find that you aren’t the only one who has changed during your absence. Everyone and everything else will have changed too! Remember to take time to readjust slowly.

You’ll notice that you may think differently about the United States. You’ll spend time reflecting on the differences between the U.S. and your former host country, just as you did when you left. Friends and family may be interested in stories or photos for a while, but “really don’t understand.” It may be difficult for you to express your feelings in words. Remember that many people may have difficulty relating to what you are saying because it hasn’t been part of their experience.

Articulating your Study Abroad Experience

Your study abroad experience can open employment doors for you. When you return, check the USD Study Abroad website for the annual Lessons from Abroad (LFA) conference where you can learn how to best articulate your experience and use it for future employment. This conference will give you the information and skills you need to effectively present your study abroad experience in your résumé and application cover letters, and during job interviews.

Among other topics, you will learn…

  • How to best place your study abroad experience on your résumé and curriculum vitae
  • How to describe the knowledge, attitudes, and skills you have acquired through study abroad in application cover letters
  • How to link these skills to the requirements of prospective employers and admissions criteria of graduate schools
  • How to highlight your study abroad experience and skills during job interviews
  • How to go about finding a job with a multinational employer

To help you begin reflecting on your experience and thinking about how you can present it in the future, take a look at the following skills/competencies identified by employers that are associated with an international experience that can apply to the workplace (taken from the Collegiate Employment Research Institute Research Brief, March 2008).

  • Ability to work independently
  • Adapting to situations of change
  • Allocating time effectively
  • Applying information to new or broader contexts
  • Assessing impacts of decisions
  • Being dependable
  • Communicating ideas in a manner that gains acceptance/agreement
  • Conceptualizing a future for oneself/organization
  • Conveying ideas verbally
  • Gaining new knowledge from experiences
  • Identifying new problems/alternative solutions
  • Identifying creative possibilities/solutions
  • Identifying social/political implications of decisions
  • Interacting with people who hold different interests, values, or perspectives
  • Resourceful in accomplishing assignments
  • Setting priorities
  • Understanding cultural differences in the workplace
  • Undertaking tasks that are unfamiliar/risky
  • Working effectively with co-workers

The University of San Diego credits Michigan State University and Virginia Tech University for information in this Study Abroad Student Guide.


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