Integration of the Period of Residence Abroad and De-Briefing

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Integration of the Period of Residence Abroad

and De-Briefing

  1. Introduction 2

  2. Practice in Institutions: De-briefing and Integration 3

  3. De-Briefing: Some Suggestions 8

  4. Integration: Some Suggestions 11

References 19

Appendices 21

1. Introduction
After the period of residence abroad (PRA) most UK students return to their home university, normally for a final year, to complete their courses. In most cases we expect them to adapt to a foreign culture and on their return smoothly to re-adapt to their own or home-culture. If nothing goes terribly wrong, we tend to take this process for granted. Instinctively we assume that students have matured considerably during the PRA – and indeed, their own reports and evaluations of the changes wrought by it, tend to confirm this. The sheer number of students who mention becoming more confident, independent, self-reliant – or in other words “mature” – by living in a different culture is in itself telling.
This does not mean that the return to the home university is entirely problem-free. Some students may find it difficult, after the considerable freedom they have enjoyed during the PRA, to settle down again to a regular diet of lectures, tutorials and essay deadlines. They may even find that academic study has less meaning for them. What measures – if any – should universities take, a) to ensure that the transition from PRA to final the year is successful and b) to capitalise on the gains in maturity, linguistic proficiency and cultural awareness made by most students during this period? And what of the (hopefully) small number of students – and there must be some – for whom the period of residence abroad may have been a negative experience? Are they to be left to the University counselling service? Or do departments, which have made the PRA compulsory and promoted it as a highly formative experience, have a duty to those who do not find it so?
Should we, in other words, be taking a more systematic approach to the de-briefing of students after a PRA whether to enable them to reinforce positive experiences or to give them the opportunity of subjecting any negative experiences to appropriate processing?

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