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By Christine Ascher, Uloop
As a parent, having a student who is studying abroad can be stressful. When they finally return home, you’ll probably be overwhelmed with relief. However, the stress of studying abroad doesn’t always end right when your student reenters the U.S. Reverse culture shock is common among students who study abroad; they may come home and feel listless or homesick for the country they left, or they may feel like they don’t quite fit in anymore, as they’ve changed from their experience. If you notice that your student isn’t quite him or herself after returning from study abroad, don’t worry—this is perfectly normal. Though it may take a while for your student to readjust completely to life back in the U.S. upon their return, there are fortunately some ways that you can help the process. If your student is having a difficult time, keep the following tips in mind to help them conquer their post-study abroad blues.
As a parent, you may be expecting your student to feel as excited to be home as you are to have them back. However, it’s important to remember that not all students will feel that way. As happy as your student may be to be home, there will probably be a certain amount of regret that they feel about leaving their host country as well. Don’t pressure your student to feel a certain way when they return. Remember that it may take them some time to get used to living in the U.S. again, and that—even if they’re glad to see you—their readjustment may be difficult. The best thing that you can do for your student in this scenario is to just be patient and understanding.
After spending an extended amount of time in another country, your student may find some aspects of American culture jarring when they first return. It’s a good idea to do some research into the culture and social norms of their host country, so that you know what to expect when they return. For instance, if your student studied abroad in a country that typically has a slower pace of life than the U.S., they may find returning home to be stressful or overwhelming if they have a lot to do right away. Just being aware of that will help you avoid overscheduling your student’s return, and thereby allow them to ease more slowly back into their lives in the U.S.
A lot of students who have studied abroad find that, once they return, their old friends and family members aren’t as interested in their stories or experiences as they would expect. Keep in mind that, for your student, they likely had some life-changing experiences on their trip that they’re eager to share, and they may become frustrated or disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm that greets them. While their friends will probably be interested in their trip in a broad sense, it’s unlikely that they’ll be willing to listen to the hours of stories that your student undoubtedly has on hand. You can help your student out just by being a good listener; even if you already heard some of their tales when they first happened, try to be patient and allow your student to recount their experiences and express how they feel. It will help them to know that at least someone is interested, and that someone recognizes the importance of what they have to say.
Often when students return from study abroad, they find that going back to their old daily routine becomes much more tedious and boring. It can be difficult to make the transition from constantly traveling and exploring new places to being right back where you started out, but one way that you can help your student through this is by encouraging them to reconnect with their old friends. Catching up with friends who they may not have seen since before their study abroad trip will help your student stay busy, combatting the post-study abroad tedium that may otherwise keep them feeling low. It will also help them remember what they love about being home: having their friends and family around and being able to chat anytime, without worrying about time differences or international phone calls.
Once they return home, your student may be worried about losing some of the new skills that they’ve learned or forgetting some of the experiences that they had. Encourage them to journal about their trip or make a scrapbook with some of their pictures; this will help ensure that they preserve their memories and can look back on them at any time. If your student improved their language skills while abroad and is worried about losing them, try to help find ways for them to keep practicing. With you making sure that they act to preserve their experience, they’ll feel a lot better about keeping it fresh in their minds.
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