Congratulations! You and your student have now “made it” through what is often considered the most difficult time of the exchange experience. Right after the holidays or the “mid-year slump” students often feel that they have finally come to understand the culture they are in; they are now comfortable speaking the language, understand the most important cultural behavioral patterns, and have bonded with their host families and friends.
The process of overcoming the challenges of cultural adjustment can give students a great sense of accomplishment as they:
- Are empowered by new language skills and cultural understanding,
- Understand and appreciate cultural differences,
- Have gained cultural knowledge which makes it easier to function in the new culture,
- Have developed a dual perspective which is part of becoming more effective in communicating interculturally; in other words, they have now learned to separate the two cultures and are able to pick and choose cultural codes and behaviors, and
- Have grown and matured through this intercultural learning and will be better equipped to deal with challenging situations in the future.
Some of the challenges that you and your student may be facing right now include:
- Since their newness has worn off and they have become members of your family, you may start to experience some disagreements, as at this point students are no longer granted “special privileges.”
- Some students may feel that time is running out and may want to travel and sightsee as much as possible before it is time to return. You will need to dialogue with your student as to what kind of travel is acceptable to you. This is a good time to remind students of the for independent travel.
- Natural family members may find it interesting to see where their son/daughter has lived for all these months, and you might like to meet them as well. However, we recommend that you do not encourage these visits. Since the natural parents have not been through the same experience as you and your student, there is a high potential for conflict, i.e., they will encounter a different cultural system, different parenting styles, and different lifestyles which do not correspond to their own and which may be confusing. In addition, having two sets of parents often poses an uncomfortable situation for everyone involved in the exchange. After the visit, the bonding process is often interrupted and issues may surface that were not there before the visit.
Your student has likely recently attended the mid-year orientation. This orientation is very important because it provides students with time to reflect on their experience thus far and also about what they expect to accomplish during the remainder of the program.
The purpose of this orientation is to equip students to take full advantage of the rest of their experience by identifying and correcting any behaviors that may have prevented them from fully integrating to their host family, their school and their community.
We encourage you to ask your student about the topics discussed during the orientation so that you have an opportunity to reinforce any topic to which, in your opinion, your student needs to pay special attention.
Although it may seem a bit early, we suggest that at some point this spring you talk with your student about decisions that need to be made regarding packing to return to his/her home country.
It is important for your student to decide ahead of time which items he/she will need to ship home in order to plan accordingly. By planning ahead your student and your entire family will avoid hectic, last minute pandemonium when things do not fit into the suitcases!
Back to top
… And Don’t Forget!
Last, but not least, we encourage you to make the most of the remaining months with your student. Remember that the time shared during the program is the first stage of a journey that could last a lifetime.