Returning to the U.S.

Basic information

Off-Campus Programs Student Handbook


U.S. duty free regulations

If you study off-campus in an international setting, it is important that you are aware of the rules for bringing items back from your trip. For the most up to date information about what you can bring into the country after your time abroad, check the U.S. Customs website.


As you return from your off-campus experiences, it is important for you to think intentionally about your re-entry to your life at Calvin or post Calvin. Re-entry is the process of returning home after spending time off-campus. Re-entry is often most difficult for students who have studied abroad but it can also be present for those who have had an intense experience in the United States. By traveling off-campus, you have kindled a flame that can be used in many ways. Keep the flame alive by sharing your experience with others, becoming active in your local community, advocating for our brothers and sisters around the world, and finding ways to continue to embody the global understanding that you experienced while away. You may be surprised to find that the lessons of your recent journey are applicable right here at home.

The re-entry process can be more difficult for some than others but almost all students experience some form of reverse culture shock as they return home after an intense semester off-campus. Similar to culture shock, you can find yourself moving through various stages as you work to integrate your time away into your life at home. There are a number of strategies that you can employ to help in this transition process. Please take a moment to review these strategies and find the ones that will work best for you.

Calvin has a number of resources that you can take advantage of as you make this transition.

Strategies for Personal/Emotional Re-entry

Strategies for Civic Engagement and Social Action

Strategies for Academic Reintegration

Strategies for Professional Development

Travel well awards

Explore, Dream, Discover...and then contribute to our Annual Art of Traveling Well contest! This contest is designed to highlight the power of Calvin’s off-campus programs to create educational, responsible, and culturally rich travel experiences for students. Check out Travel Well Awards for more information or to view previous year winners.

Exploring Grand Rapids

Global Connections, Local Responsibilities summarizes some of the connections the Off-Campus programs want to make between your global experiences off-campus and your living locally in your community. Within this context we often see our global experiences as a chance for exploration; yet our local communities offer a unique context for exploration as well. What follows is a list of cultural challenges for Grand Rapids. The Off-Campus Programs office wants to encourage you to complete as many of these challenges over the next semester. Students who demonstrate that they have completed 24 challenges by the time they graduate will receive a free gift from the off-campus programs office. This is an honor system! You should search for answers yourself!

  1. What is a Paczki? Try one and tell us what day do people eat this traditional ethnic food.
  2. What is banket? What is the significance of banket in West Michigan?
  3. Ride the White Pine Trail on a bike, from Riverside Park to Rockford and back with a friend, have the friend verify your ride.
  4. Ride the Kent trail on a bike, from John Ball Zoo to Cutlerville and back with a friend, have the friend verify your ride.
  5. Have a burger at the oldest bar and restaurant in downtown Grand Rapids. Name the restaurant.
  6. Attend a service at a Jewish synagogue.
  7. Attend mass at a Catholic church.
  8. Attend a service at a church comprised primarily of people who are culturally or ethnically different than yourself.
  9. Visit three different ethnic grocery stores. Buy food at one of these stores and cook an ethnic meal for your friends.
  10. Attend an ethnic celebration somewhere in the city. Describe the celebration.
  11. Visit an event at the Ladies Literary Club.
  12. Visit the Fulton Street Farmers Market. Buy enough locally grown food to fix a meal for your friends.
  13. Have a wet burrito at the Beltline Bar.
  14. Eat at an ethnic restaurant that you have not eaten before.
  15. Get a photo of yourself on the merry-go-round in the Grand Rapid Public Museum.
  16. Get a photo of yourself on the giant tire swing in Grand Rapids.
  17. Get a photo of yourself at the Flouride Memorial Sculpture in Downtown Grand Rapids.
  18. Attend a concert or go ice skating at Rosa Parks circle.
  19. Bike or walk around the lake in Millennium Park.
  20. Rent a canoe and paddle a portion of the Grand River
  21. Volunteer as a tutor through the Service Learning Center at a school in Grand Rapids.
  22. Find where the Robert Morris "EarthworK" outdoor sculpture is located.
  23. Visit the Frederick Meyer Gardens and Sculpture Park – get a photo at the DeVinci Horse.
  24. Wander the Heritage Hill Historic District, adjacent to downtown Grand Rapids, includes 1,300 homes dating from 1848. Take a self-guided walking tour see more than 60 architectural styles. Find the address of the Meyer May house.
  25. Attend an event at Wealthy Street Theater.
  26. Ride the Rapid to an event downtown and back.
  27. Met an immigrant to Grand Rapids. What is their story and how did they end up in Grand Rapids?
  28. Have a meal or snack at God’s kitchen or the DeGage.
  29. In 2006, Field & Stream Magazine named Grand Rapids the nation's sixth best fishing city. You can hook salmon and steelhead in the middle of downtown, and the outlying rivers and lakes are teeming with other freshwater species. Get a photo of yourself at the Fish Ladder.



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