Supporting Your Student
Study abroad is one of the best experiences a student can have during their collegiate journey! Students grow, learn and experience more than ever when they are abroad. However, it can be an intimidating experience, for both students and their loved ones. OGE has provided a list of resources and information so that parents and families can support their students through this life-changing adventure, as well as what to expect through each stage of they study abroad process.
Parent Guide to Study Abroad: published by the Institute for International Education (IIE) and he American Institute For Foreign Study (AIFS)
Study Abroad Information For Parents: published by the US Department of State's website for Study Abroad
A Practical Parent's Guide to Study Abroad: Blog post published by GoOverseas.com
Study Abroad Parent Guide: published by StudyAbroad.com
Parent Checklist: Published by the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP)
What to Expect Prior to DepartureAll students attend a pre-departure orientation prior to beginning their program. We cover topics like: Health & Safety, Traveling Advice, the Study Abroad Process, Culture Shock and Adjustment, Georgia Southern Expectations, Legal Issues and more while abroad. They will be briefed on important processes such as emergency protocol, how to stay safe, healthcare abroad, tips for travel and managing cultural differences, and how to best prepare for their journey. Additionally, we discuss any concerns or questions about financial aid and expected costs while abroad.
Students are enrolled into their study abroad courses by the Office of Global Engagement, and must complete all required study abroad paperwork through their application in the Global Portal. For students studying on an exchange or 3rd party program, they must have their study abroad courses approved before they can receive credit for their courses, or any financial aid. They will receive all of this information through their pre-departure orientation as well as through the Global Portal.
How Loved Ones Can Help PrepareFamily and friends can help the student prepare for their journey abroad by listening to their concerns and doing little things to excite them for the experience. Giving small gifts to use through their adventure, like a travel journal, can make the student feel like you support them and look forward to their experience as well.
You can also spend some time researching the value of study abroad and what a great opportunity it is for your student. Understanding more of what to expect for their student may help families transition through the process as well.
2. While Abroad
Culture ShockUnderstanding the psychological process behind "Culture Shock" (also known as "Cultural Adjustment" or "Cultural Transition") is important because your student will most likely experience it at some point during their program abroad. Students may experience more symptoms more intensely, the longer that they are abroad and the greater the cultural differences are between their host country and back home.
Culture shock is generally classified as having three phases:
- The Honeymoon: Experienced upon arrival in the new culture. Everything seems new and exciting, and there is delight in beginning this new adventure
- The Shock: The first experience of "Something's Different". It can be as simple as a communication difference, or frustration with the difference in food. The student will begin to notice more cultural differences and this can turn into feelings of frustration, depression, or even anger as daily encounters and experiences cause tension.
- The Recovery: The student finds confidence, appreciation, and peace with their new culture
Stay in touch, but not too much!While it may be exciting to hear about their adventures, or maybe even nerve-wracking, calling home too often can cause greater stress with students' culture shock. If students spend too much time checking in at home, they miss out on new experiences and making new friends that can help quicken their culture shock transition.
Students and families can still maintain high quality communication even if it is less frequent. Students can use their time to become more independent and fully embrace their new culture. Families can write letters, send care packages, text and call every once in a while, or even schedule weekly phone calls to touch base.
3. Upon Return/Re-EntryYour student will come home with many stories and experiences to share so it is important that they have someone to listen and ask questions. They will be excited to come home, but may be nervous about reintegrating with their old friends and family, or may miss aspects about the culture they experienced abroad.
Understand Reverse Culture ShockIt's completely normal for many students to also experience the same Culture Shock process after returning to the U.S.
"Reverse Culture Shock" is a term used to describe the feelings experienced when people return to their home country and find that things may be unfamiliar, they may feel excluded, or misunderstood. Many reasons may cause "Reverse Culture Shock" including a student's change in global perspectives, the lack of excitement when transitioning to "normal life" or even just having a newfound appreciation for cultures that nobody else seems to understand.
While family and friend may not always be able to understand these types of changes, encourage your student to:
- Share their stories. Listen to their adventures, and help them articulate their experiences. They can share their journey with other students on campus, or other study abroad students as well.
- Talk with an Education Abroad Advisor. The staff in the Office of Education Abroad aren’t only there for students before and during their trips - everyone loves talking with returnee students and are very familiar with any on-campus resources that may be beneficial.
- Talk with people who had similar experiences.
- Become involved with the international community at Georgia Southern. Georgia Southern has around 600 international students across all campuses and both the office of International Admissions and Programs, and the Office of Global Engagement sponsor programs and events that encourage cross-cultural exchanges and engagement.
- Pursue language learning. Students can take classes in a variety of languages through the Department of Foreign Languages, and even meet new people with whom they can practice with!
- Stay connected with friends abroad. The internet and social media makes it easy to keep in touch with their connections from abroad. Letters are also a fun way to practice language skills while connecting.
- Personally reflect. Blogging, journaling, writing, or even creating videos about their experience can also be very self-fulfilling.