Reflection Prompts

Intentional reflection involving critical thinking is a key component to a high impact international experience. “Reflection as a process means helping students to take a step back to look at an experience, to frame it and to derive meaning from it.”  Going beyond recording your experience, critical thought about how and why builds your awareness and engagement with your surroundings and ability to contribute substantively to solve problems. (Pagano and Roselle, 2009)

Documenting your reflections may make for a great blog post or journal entry if you’re planning to record your experiences or tell your story!

Consider the following reflection prompts to get started.Journaling Above Plaza de Armas_Sachi Gianchandani_GIEU Peru 2013

Before you Arrive

On your long plane ride or before the program gets into full swing, consider taking a few moments to collect your thoughts around the journey you’re about to embark on…

  • How did I get here? What prompted me to go abroad? What did I do to make it happen?
  • How does this international experience fit into my academic and career paths?
    • What skills and perspectives can I bring to this experience?  To my peers, colleagues, supervisors, or professors?
    • What skills and perspectives do I hope to bring home at the end of the experience?
    • What do I hope to accomplish academically, professionally, and personally?
  • What am I most looking forward to? Why?
  • What am I most worried about? Why?
  • What will I do to make the most of my experience?
  • Is engineering a “global profession”? What does that mean?

Cultural Exploration

Welcome to Our CommunityAs you continue explore your new surroundings and meet new people, here are a few prompts to help you dive a little deeper into the many aspects of your host country’s culture.  (This may make for a fun weekend “scavenger hunt” or some conversation starters with colleagues or new friends!)…

Prompt: Food & Culture**

“The meaning of food is an exploration of culture through food. What we consume, how we acquire it, who prepares it, who’s at the table, and who eats first is a form of communication that is rich with meaning.”(PBS, The Meaning of Food, 2005)

  • Have you tried any food abroad that you never thought you would?
  • What has been your favorite food in your host destination (a food that you normally do not eat back in the states)?
  • How does the host culture you live in approach meals and food?
  • How is that different from American culture?

Prompt: Politics Abroad**

  • Have you been following politics in your host country?
  • What is the system/form of government practiced in your study abroad country? (i.e. democracy, parliamentary monarchy, republic).
  • How does the political system or environment differ from the U.S.?
  • Have the trending political opinions of local citizens caused you to reflect on policies and political discourse in the U.S.? If so, how?
  • What kinds of pressing policy debates are occurring in your host country, and do you have an opinion on them?
  • Describe the level of political or engagement of local undergraduate students you have encountered.

Prompt: Leaving the Comforts of Home – Brutality or Invigorating?**

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things –air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”

-Cesare Pavese

  • As a student living in a foreign host country, can you identify with this statement? Why or why not?
  • Name one thing that you miss from the U.S. and why, along with one thing (activity, food, cultural norm) that you have discovered in your host country that you would like to incorporate in your life when you return to the states.

Prompt: Conservation in the Region**

  • Have you discovered or relished in the natural beauty of your host country?
  • How environmentally conscious are the inhabitants of your host country? Does the level of consciousness have an effect on the surrounding environment?
  • Are there any habits that promote a healthy environment in your study abroad country that you would like to take back to the United States?

Prompt: Your World through the Lens of your Camera

  • Take a look at a picture of something that best represents your time in your host culture thus far & describe why you chose it. Feel free to get creative!

Prompt: Influential People

  • When we talk to returning students in the fall, one theme that often comes up in discussion is the impact that the people they met while abroad had on them. Take some time to think about who these people might be for you. Write about them.
  • Describe the person who has been most influential to you during the time you’ve spent in your host community.

Prompt: Cultural Faux Pas

  • Describe your funniest cross-cultural misunderstanding yet! Describe the situation and what you took away from the experience

Prompt: Social Media

  • Think about social media and how it’s utilized in your host country. Describe your use of social media and what implications you believe social media has on your experience abroad.  How does your use of social media compare to those you have met in your host community?

Source: http://miisp.blogspot.com/2012/04/miisp-blogging-guidelines-prompts.html

As you get comfortable in the workplace and with your colleagues, consider taking a look back at the goals you set for yourself when you applied to your internship and your pre-departure reflection on how this position fits into your career. 

Exploring the International Workplace

Prompt: Your Internship/Service Project*

  • What skills did you bring to the internship?
  • What other skills have you developed?
  • What are you enjoying most about your internship?
  • What would you like to explore more?
  • What has been challenging or frustrating for you? How will you/did you resolve the difficulty?
  • What is something you’ve done that you’re proud of? Why?

Prompt: The International Workplace

  • Regardless of what type of experience you’re undertaking this summer, you’re being exposed to workplace culture that is likely very different from that which you’ve experienced here in the U.S. How does workplace culture in your host community compare to the U.S. workplace culture?  Consider concepts of time, supervisor/employee relationships, work/life balance, style of dress, communication styles, formality, etc.
  • Describe one interesting person you’ve met or one interesting conversation you’ve had.
  • Describe one thing that has surprised you.

Prompt: Exploring the connection between your internship/service project & your studies/future plans*

  • How is the internship supporting your academic concentration?
  • Is the internship illuminating a career path and/or a link between your academic and extracurricular activity?
  • How does your internship make your think differently about your past, present and future academic and extracurricular activities?*

Source:  http://miisp.blogspot.com/2012/04/miisp-blogging-guidelines-prompts.html

Exploring the International University

Prompt: The International University

  • Regardless of what type of experience you’re undertaking this summer, you’re being exposed to academic culture that is likely very different from that which you’ve experienced here in the U.S. How does academic culture in your host country compare to UM?  Consider concepts of time, professor/student relationships, school/life balance, style of dress, communication styles, formality, etc.
  • Describe one interesting person you’ve met or one interesting conversation you’ve had.
  • Describe one thing that has surprised you.

Prompt: Your Study Abroad*

  • What study skills have you been able to apply?
  • What other skills have you developed?
  • What are you enjoying most about campus?
  • What would you like to explore more?
  • What has been challenging or frustrating for you? How will you/did you resolve the difficulty?
  • What is something you’ve done that you’re proud of? Why?

Prompt: Exploring the connection between your international experience & your studies/future plans*

  • How is your time at a different university supporting your academic concentration?
  • Is the study abroad illuminating a career path and/or a link between your academic and extracurricular activity?
  • How does your study abroad make your think differently about your past, present and future academic and extracurricular activities?*

Engineering, Entrepreneurship, and Leadership

Consider how your lens as a UM student affects your definition and perspectives of engineering, entrepreneurship, and leadership.  Review the following prompts for personal reflection and discussion with host country contacts.

Prompt: Engineering

  • From your perspective, what is engineering? Are you an engineer? What are the characteristics of an engineer?
  • In your host country, what does engineering mean? Have you met any?
  • Why do engineers engage in international experiences?  What are outcomes for students? 
  • What do engineering students have to contribute to real world design challenges? 

Prompt: Leadership

  • What is leadership? Are there different kinds of leaders?
  • What are the characteristics of a leader?  What makes a leader effective or ineffective?
  • Are you a leader – how, where, what makes you a leader?

Prompt: Entrepreneurship

  • From your perspective, what is entrepreneurship? What are the characteristics of an entrepreneur? Do you know any entrepreneurs or people who demonstrate entrepreneurial spirit? Do you hold any of these characteristics?
  • Does the word entrepreneurship exist in your host community? If so, what does it mean? If not, does the concept exist? Perhaps with a different title?
  • Who are these people – specific people you know? Have you met any entrepreneurs on your host country?
  • What are the challenges or risks associated with entrepreneurship?

Prompt: Strengthening Engagement

  • In what ways can leadership, entrepreneurship, and engineering talents within individual students and host countries, schools, or organizations be leveraged to strengthen engagement, learning, and creative solutions to real world challenges?

Returning Home

Upon return, here are a few final reflection prompts to consider so you can avoid the “it’s awesome” response when asked about your experience and think about how you might incorporate your experience abroad into your life at U-M, whether it be through your academics or extra-curricular activities.  Also, check out on-campus opportunities to stay involved!

Reflecting on Goals and Next Steps

  • Think about the goals you set for yourself before you departed.  Reflect on how your experiences this summer relate to what you wrote then.  Provide concrete examples, when possible.
  • Did this international experience open your eyes to other opportunities? How will you incorporate other opportunities into your future plans?

New Perspectives

  • How have your perspectives on the field of engineering changed?
  • What does it mean for engineering to be a “global profession”?
  • How have your awareness and/or passion for global issues be impacted by your international experience? Why?

Cultural Adjustment

  • What is the thing you’ll miss the most?
  • Below is a graph describing culture shock and reverse culture shock.  Have you identified with any of these stages? Describe certain situations or stages of your abroad experience and how they relate (or not!) to the graph. (Statements also typed below the image.) *

  1. Everything is new, interesting, and exciting.
  2. Differences become apparent and irritating. Problems occur and frustration sets in.
  3. You may feel homesick depressed and helpless.
  4. You develop strategies to cope with difficulties and feelings, make new friends, and learn to adapt to the culture.
  5. You accept and embrace cultural differences. You see the host as your new home and don’t wish to depart and leave new friends.
  6. You are excited about returning home.
  7. You may feel frustrated, angry, or lonely because friends and family don’t understand what you experienced and how you changed. You miss the host culture and friends, and may look for ways to return.
  8. You gradually adjust to life at home. Things start to seem more normal and routine again, although not exactly the same.
  9. You incorporate what you learned and experienced abroad into your new life and career.

Source:  http://miisp.blogspot.com/2012/04/miisp-blogging-guidelines-prompts.html

Professional Development – Meet the Intern

Now that you’ve been home for a while, take some time to put your international experience into perspective in terms of your career goals.  Begin to think about what you might say about your international experience during a job or graduate school interview.

Prompt: Tell me what you did.

Describe your internship. What were your responsibilities? How much time did you spend working? What did you accomplish? 

Prompt: Tell me about why it is relevant to the position/program for which you are applying. 

How do the skills and experience you gained abroad set you apart as a professional engineer?

Prompt: Tell me how you learn from experience and share with others.

Based on your experiences, what advice do you have for engineering students interested in an international experience?

Prompt: Tell me about how you deal with challenges.

Please describe a memorable moment or situation when you felt challenged during your international experience and how you dealt with it.