A Time of Change

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Going abroad is an emotional time for students. There is a period of anticipation and concern about leaving family, friends and familiar routines. Once overseas, many students find that they have more freedom than at home. They also may have to cook, clean and do laundry for themselves. In addition, students may have to keep a closer eye on money and take responsibility for their actions in a new environment with different social constraints and expectations.

Adapting to a different culture is initially filled with uncertainty. Simple tasks such as finding an address, understanding a bus schedule, mailing a letter or making a telephone call can be confusing and frustrating. Students respond to uncertainty in different ways. Some need to understand everything around them and find comfort in predictability, while others flourish in an environment that is in flux, requiring close observation and new responses.

Academics, too, can require major adjustments. The strategies a student used to master academics in the U.S. do not necessarily apply overseas. This can be especially frustrating for students who have worked hard to achieve academic success at home, and then do not immediately attain the same level of achievement abroad. The student has not failed, but is learning a different approach to education. With time and assistance, students overcome these obstacles. Your continued encouragement and patience are very important during this process.

Even if it were possible, removing the differences and uncertainty and their resultant challenges would restrict a student’s growth, intercultural understanding, and experience. Instead, it is important that students and those close to them realize that there will be challenges and stresses, ups and downs, and frustrations as they make their way into a new culture.