Getting Ready: Preparing for the Last Few Weeks

In many areas across the US the next few weeks will bring about the end of the third marking period in most schools, and that means that soon it will be time for our students to return to their respective home countries. This can be a stressful time of year. There are exams; school events, like the prom; and lots of preparations to be made for the end of the semester. And, of course, there are all the friends, family members, neighbors and teachers to see before departing. Cramming all of that into the last six to ten weeks can be a challenge, but staying organized will help to make things a little less chaotic as the days roll by.

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Start by making a list of all the things you need to do before the semester ends. Below are some tips and common issues that students deal with in the final months that may help you to think your way through your own departure:

Cindy and Na at Fair

1) Do you need to convalidate your grades in your home country? The countries of Ecuador, Brazil, Italy, Spain and Mexico allow students who have studied abroad to submit their official transcripts to their country’s embassy for authentication. This process ensures that students can receive credit for their work abroad upon returning. Each country has a slightly different procedure, and it helps to know what that is before getting started. Visit the country’s embassy page on the web and do some research to find out exactly how it’s done. One thing that is for certain is that transcripts must be stamped with the school seal and signed by a notary in the state in which the school resides. Once all the documentation is gathered it is up to the student to make arrangements for the submission of all paperwork to the embassy.

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2) Have you completed your service hours? Each student is required to complete at least five community service hours while residing in the US. With Spring emerging lots of organizations are going to be setting up community events, such as park clean-ups, fund drives, food and clothing drives, and community fairs and parades. Look through the community bulletin for ideas or organizations to join in which projects are being organized. The local free shopping publication is also a good place to look.

Jonathan and Pepe

3) Plan to give back: How will you thank the students, teachers, family members, and friends for all the wonderful experiences you had while living in the US? What would you like people to remember about you after you leave? A simple gesture of thanks can leave an indelible impression on those around you. Maybe you can make your host family a photo album, or write a letter to your school. Perhaps there is someone in your neighborhood who did something nice for you that needs a little help around the house?

Giraff

4) Returning home: It may be weeks away, but you will be surprised at how quickly time goes by, especially when you are busy with final semester obligations. Start gathering your plan for your return trip. Make sure to give yourself some time. Sit down and think about the next few weeks. Make a “to do” list and give yourself some reasonable goals. What will you hope to accomplish between now and the end of the semester? What will you be sorry to have missed when you return home, or have you made the most of your experience from start to finish?

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The J-1 exchange is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Make sure you take advantage of it. To all of our students and families, ISE wishes you all the best in the coming weeks. Be safe, happy, and healthy, and enjoy Spring!

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