This graphic is a bit tongue-in-cheek…but perhaps that is a good idea right now. The truth is, we’re all a bit fatigued from political statements and international news over the past couple of weeks.
I don’t know quite what to do with this “data,” and I suppose some will say the data are a bit suspect. Perhaps — after all, being known as the country of velociraptors seems a bit … well, unusual? Perhaps not — after all, we *do* seem to have quite a few spam emails in the U.S. and perhaps we’re a more interesting target for those sending such emails.
In any event, it’s worth thinking about…and it might, at least, distract your attention for a few minutes. That might be a good thing.
We’ve written before (see here and here, for example) about the impacts of culture shock as our students arrive on our shores thinking exchange student life will be easy and then realizing — rather suddenly — that life is harder than they thought. We’ve also shared thoughts (see here and here) on what it’s like when our students return home.
We recently came across the infographic below, which argues that we should not only anticipate culture shock, we should embrace it. We agree! Culture shock isn’t a bad thing or a good thing. It’s a neutral term, used to describe how people feel when they arrive in a place far different from the place they are used to. “Shock” probably isn’t the best word to use, since it implies something negative has happened. The experience is more “culture engagement” than “culture shock,” whether we’re talking about landing in a foreign place for the first time or returning home feeling like a stranger.
As the infographic notes, this transition experience is “entirely normal, usually unavoidable, and is nothing to feel embarrassed about.” Embrace the differences you see and keep yourself busy as you get used to new things. Think about the idea that the confusion and anxiety starts even before you leave home; we reported a few weeks ago about students who were already nervous about their new host family and whether they would be able to adjust to their new life.
What can students and host families do?
Communicate (with each other!).
Students: Of course, you will want to communicate with your family back home. But think about the connections you are trying to make here in your host country. Start conversations with your host parents and host siblings. If you won’t have any host siblings, ask if there are ways to meet people of your own age before school starts.
Families: Help your student to get to know you and to open up by starting conversations. Conversations can be on issues as small as “what’s your normal dinner time? Let’s compare!” to political issues of the day. Want some conversation starter ideas? Find some suggestions here and here.
Do something with each other to help get past the initial awkwardness.
Students: Offer to cook some meals from your home country. Ask your mom or dad for a recipe. Ask your host sister/brother, host mom/dad if they can help. They will probably be excited about the idea of cooking something new. Go anywhere and everywhere you can with your host family. If your host parents ask if you want to run errands with them, say yes even if it doesn’t sound exciting — it might be more interesting than you think, since it will be new to you. Watch TV with them, even if you’ve never watched that show before or have some trouble understanding new voices.
Families: Do all of the above in reverse! Have a meal or two based on recipes from your student’s home country. Take your student grocery shopping and on other errands. Explain the plot of your favorite TV show when everyone sits down to watch. Involve your student in as much as possible.
As a new exchange student, think about getting involved in something in your host country — a sport, drama, music, art. Take walks. Go for a run. Offer to take the dog for a walk. Take the bus into the downtown area. Ask your coordinator if you can meet other students in your area. Families can help with all of this; show your student local walking trails or where it’s OK to go for a run. Show your student local public transit. Call other host families and arrange movie nights or excursions.
Embrace culture shock; it’s why you’re here!
The original infographic can be found at ExpatChild.com. Photo credits Pixabay.com and Thinkstock.com.
The issues we deal with in connection with our international students cover a range of topics: international education, cultural exchange, study abroad, diplomacy, the concept of “global citizen” and language learning, to name a few. They’re all inter-related. In our blog, sometimes we write about the more serious side of what we do in our local coordinator role. Sometimes we write about the emotional side of making connections around the world.
Today is just about fun. I came across the Infographic below, 21 Ways to Say Hello, which I thought I would share. It won’t help you learn how to find the train station or how best to hail a taxi, but at least you can learn how to say hello!
The Institute of International Education’s Open Doors® project, supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is an annual comprehensive information resource on international students and scholars studying or teaching at higher education institutions in the United States. It also tracks U.S. students studying abroad for academic credit at their home colleges or universities.
The following Infographic shows some of the statistics from the most recent Open Doors report relating to international students studying in the U.S. Although the IIE’s international student statistics include only students enrolled at U.S. colleges or universities — not statistics on high school or youth exchanges — I thought some of my readers might be interested.