Forum on Education Abroad Conference – Dialogue about Re-Entry

I just returned from a  Forum on Education Abroad conference session entitled “Integrating Education Abroad into the Campus Ethos.”  One of the discussion points was re-entry and how schools are supporting students through coursework and campus programs/events. 

This raised a big question for me:  What about the faculty?  (Funnily, when I googled “faculty re-entry issues” I got a bunch of listings about “prisoner re-entry!” Hmmmm?!)

One of challenges that we often face is hearing from our faculty about how hard it is for them to be home and how many days/months/years it is before they can consider a sabbatical so that they can go abroad and conduct research and travel.  One of the most difficult situations in my career was hearing from a faculty member, who literally broke down in tears, unable to articulate how traumatizing it was to be “home.”   All I could do in that moment was let her cry, which is what she needed to do.

I posed this question to the panel and audience – Are we seeing issues with faculty re-entry and how are we addressing them?

No one in the session, including the panel, had a structured program or plan for faculty facing challenges with this issue.  One of the panelists did contribute that his school required final reports from faculty leading courses abroad and that he often has them meet with the international committe, but that nothing systematic is in place to consider how they are doing upon return.

So, I pose the question to you:  Have you ever experienced faculty dealing with re-entry challenges?  Does your institution have a program in place to assist a faculty member who is readjusting to teaching in the “confines” of 4 walls again, missing the ability to speak a 2nd language 24/7, having trouble explaining the value of the time abroad to a spouse who remained at home to go to work and stay with the kids?

I look forward to your comments.

I will blog about “Day 2” of the Forum on Education Abroad conference later tonight.  And by the way, for those of you who read last night’s “Day 1” update, Mexico and Iceland TIED in the friendly soccer game!