Even under the most optimal conditions, adjusting to life in a different culture can be a stressful transition. On occasion, this stress may trigger or exacerbate more serious emotional conditions. Adjusting to another culture is a higher risk for a student who is currently under treatment for depression, an eating disorder, or any other serious condition. In these cases, study abroad should be postponed or planned very carefully in conjunction with the Buckman Center for International Education as well as other healthcare professionals.
Remember that typical reactions to cultural transitions may include homesickness, boredom or fatigue, physical complaints, feelings of depression or helplessness, and/or hostility toward the host culture. However, these reactions are usually short-lived when the student is encouraged to test new problem-solving methods that enhance their sense of mastery in dealing with a new culture.
Above all, trust your instincts. If, after an initial transition period of two or three weeks, your student demonstrates unusual or prolonged distress, you should refer him/her to the Director of International Programs.
Consider consulting the Director if you:
- Notice a student cries easily or seems sad a lot;
- Observe significant changes in a student’s behavior (e.g. stops going to class or quits participating in activities);
- Feel that your student seems more dependent than before;
- Feel ill-equipped to handle the emotionality of your distressed student;
- Feel awkward or helpless when your student confides in you about their problems;
- Are concerned that your student could potentially harm him/herself or others.