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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Echo
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The challenge of re-entry: Returning to Taylor after time abroad

Travelers share tips for reintegrating

Students who leave campus for a semester often weigh the pros and cons of what going to a new city, state or country will entail. What many do not consider is the unique challenge of coming back to campus.

I spent the Spring 2023 semester studying film in Los Angeles through Olivet Nazarene University. I lived in an apartment, foraged for my own food (via a Target down the street) and created a set of lasting friendships. 

Spending the semester in Hollywood was the best decision I could have made for the second half of my junior year. But coming back presented (and continues to present) a set of unexpected difficulties.

Everywhere I turned, I met reminders that nothing was exactly the same. Time had passed on both ends. I heard new nicknames and new inside jokes that I did not understand.

Reuniting with old friends and participating in activities I had missed out on was certainly a highlight of returning to Taylor. However, in some ways, it was hard to reconcile what my on-campus community used to be with the time that had passed. My college experience had irrevocably been split into two: before I left, and after I returned. 

Senior film major Mimi Yoder spent her Spring 2023 semester in Los Angeles and had a similar experience coming back. She noted, “Everybody had this whole semester where . . . they lived a life and granted, yes, I lived a life too, but it wasn’t here.” 

Jennifer Moeschberger, interim director of the Office of Off-Campus programs, shared some common experiences among students returning from trips abroad. 

“It’s really common for life to just go on at Taylor . . . and when you come back into it, it can be easy to drop in and pick up as if nothing happened,” she said. 

Additionally, people back at Taylor may have a shorter attention span for a student’s trip. 

Moeschberger also observed that the exciting pace of Taylor after a semester off-campus can be jarring. Off-campus programs are often slower and more focused. Fewer events, classes and people can contribute to that feeling. 

“Coming from a place that’s so slow, and not driven by the clock, back to a place where everything’s go-go-go all the time was, I think, the hardest part for me,” senior psychology major Brynna Cheek said.

She spent her Spring 2023 semester studying Spanish in Spain. 

Both Cheek and Yoder referred to their experiences coming back as a sort of reverse culture shock. For those who spend a semester away, the pacing of Taylor, the short attention span for off-campus trips and picking up as if no time had passed can create obstacles to valuable learning. 

“The best learning happens when there’s reflection about an experience,” Moeschberger said. 

Regardless of where a student travels, it’s important to take time to reflect on the growth and change that occurred while there. Debriefing with friends or with Moeschberger in the Office of Off-Campus Programs can provide a needed opportunity to reconcile a trip with the time spent away.

A semester off-campus can be life-changing, and everyone’s story and experience will be different. As students weigh the pros and cons of going somewhere new, it’s important to recognize the excitement and the challenges, both in leaving and coming back.