Leaving Carnegie Mellon
We hope that your time at Carnegie Mellon has been beneficial. Surely you have learned something, and just as certainly, we have learned from you. As you prepare to leave, you have a great deal to think about. Shipping your belongings, organizing your travel, and preparing to resume life at home. The following practical details and re-entry information will be helpful.
Please inform your OIE Foreign Scholar Advisor about your anticipated or early departure from the university. The Foreign Scholar Coordinator within your department is also responsible for informing OIE regarding departures from the university. If you have comments or recommendations for improved services, please be sure to inform your OIE advisor so we can make changes to help future visitors to the university. Your feedback and comments are welcome and encouraged!
Departure Grace Period
J visitors (and their dependent family members) have a 30-day "grace period" after completion or termination of their program in which to complete and take care of personal matters. This may include travel within the United States.
Persons in H-1B status (and their family members) do not have a "grace period" and are expected to change to another status or exit the United States immediately upon completion or termination of the approved H work. Please make an appointment to meet with an OIE advisor if you have questions or concerns about immigration or visa matters at the end of your stay.
Communicate with Your Department
You will need to coordinate your departure with the appropriate individuals within your department, including the return of office keys and other routine administrative matters. Please remember that J-1 scholars and their departments must notify OIE if the scholar is departing CMU early. The scholar's J-1 program will then be completed early, and the scholar has a 30-day "grace period" to depart the US.
Payroll & Tax Issues
If you are paid by CMU (either a stipend or a salary), the CMUWorks Service Center must have the correct address for your final paycheck, as well as for important tax documents which will be mailed in January of each year.
Local, state, and federal tax forms are due in mid-April of each year for the preceding year. You may visit our website in February or March for relevant tax information.
You may download federal tax forms from the website of the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It is important to note that it remains your legal obligation to file tax forms, even if you have returned to your home (or other) country at the time that U.S. tax forms are due.
- When you go home, everything will look and feel familiar, but you may also feel that there is something out of place, you just cannot see it at first glance. Give your family and yourself time to work through what you are feeling.
- Take time out occasionally to think about what you are feeling, how your view of your familiar home and culture has changed, and why. How have your perceptions changed because of your experience in another culture?
- Try to remember to respond slowly when you first return to your home and work. Do not try to change the way your coworkers do things because you saw a "better" way. Show them that you appreciate the way things are done locally, and as opportunities arise to integrate your new knowledge with the way things are done traditionally, do it. There is an old saying, "You cannot push the river." Try to go slow and easy.
- Reserve judgment. Give yourself time to process what you learned, and think through the larger impact of introducing new ways of doing things. What works in one situation may not work in another. Pick ideas that will work well for you, and discard those that will not. Try new things, but not immediately.
- Try to be sensitive to other people's feelings when conversing.
- Attempt to remain objective. Be careful about how you phrase your comments and criticism about your country. Many foreigners are shocked when they come to the U.S. by how free Americans are with criticism. Do not forget that it may not be acceptable to do the same at home.
- Expect a time of adjustment. Do not assume that because you are home the personal changes you have made will not pose some necessary adjustments. Remain flexible, keep laughing, and try not to do too much too fast.
- Examine your personal values and the values of your home and host cultures. Living abroad provides a rare opportunity to see and understand your culture from a different perspective. Activities that help you understand your host culture will also help you understand your home culture better, and those insights can be very helpful when you return home.
- Think about your expectations. What benefits do you expect to gain from the completion of your program; what do you expect will happen when you return home? Discard unrealistic expectations and try to formulate those that recognize some of the ups and downs experienced by most people when they make major life changes.
- Spend time with others who can empathize and suggest ways to cope with re-entry stress as this can be helpful. A comforting thought is that almost all returnees share the difficulties you will encounter, and they manage to complete the cycle of adjustment successfully. Maintaining contact with friends overseas, whether by letter, telephone, or email is a great way of coping with the breakdown of communication. The ultimate goal is to develop good relationships and intimate communication with friends and family. The psychological sojourn does not end until one has successfully overcome reverse culture shock. Try to remain positive.
The above excerpts are from The Advising Quarterly for Professionals in International Education; Number 27, Winter 1994.
Some helpful articles and links: