We want to see our students experience the world, which inherently means we have to get them out, get them off our campus and into a new environment. With advisors, coordinators, and campus budgets for international education stretched to their limits, our focus tends to be on that first step – getting our students abroad.

This week, we’re shifting our focus on the return journey. Not necessarily what we can do for our returned students, or how to stay in touch (stay tuned for future blogs), but why.  Here’s our list of the top 3 reasons your office should maintain contact with students after they’ve returned:

1. We are educators.

International education is not merely a “shipping and receiving” line. We are educators, supporting and helping prepare students for a personal and educational experience that will help them grow and shape the future of our country. As educators, we’re also know that the learning does not stop when they get on a plane to come back home. To quote Terry Pratchett, “Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

We have processes to help set up students for success abroad, we should have processes to help set them up for success here at home!

2. They need us.

This aligns closely with the first reason – the students that come back are still in the process of learning:

“How do I put this experience on my resume?”

“None of my friends or family care about my experience, I just feel like I’m alone!”

These are the emotional, somewhat touchy-feely reasons that returned students might need us – but they also need us for practical matters!:

“My transcript hasn’t arrived and I need these classes to graduate on time.”

“I want to go back, but I’m not sure how.”

We heard all of these concerns across our campuses, just this week. Not every student will need the same resources, but they need to know that we didn’t just leave them at the departure gate – we’re still here as a resource when they return.

3. We need them.

Return study/intern/volunteer abroad students are POWERFUL. They have stories to tell, and their peers are listening. Did you pledge to IIE’s Generation Study Abroad campaign? You want to increase your numbers abroad? Tap into that power. In a recent survey at one of our campuses, friends and returned students were the second highest method by which study abroad participants learned about their program – more than promotional materials, events (such as a study abroad fair), and the study abroad office combined. Return students are often our greatest allies, becoming peer advisors and ambassadors, volunteering to staff events and sharing our news and events through social media. Give these students a platform to reach others and to use their newfound passions to support your office and excite their peers about studying abroad!

Struggling to find a way to stay in touch with your returned students due to current work-load? Ask IEP how we can help – we have some great ideas for you!