Wry Exchange

Reverse Culture Shock
06-30-07, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Students, Home | Tags: , , , ,

11 days until the Boy returns to his ‘real’ home.  He’ll always have a home here, but it’ll only be for short periods, unless we can get him here for college. (doubtful) Generally, one student returns for college each year. It’s the same with the US students; at least one or two annually go abroad for their education.  We love hearing about University in Czech Republic, Argentina, Nicaragua, Japan, etc.

I tell the students, counselors, host parents, and real parents You’ve become ‘one of us’ if you had a successful year.You will have culture shock when you return home.  It may be worse than culture shock when you arrived.  No one expects reverse culture shock.  They assume it will a smooth return to their ‘real’ lives.  The students look like us, dress like us, even have their hair cut like us.  They even think like us- and in English!  

The students are never fully French, Thai, Indian, or Peruvian again.  They are citizens of the world.  They go home loving their new country, and appreciating their home country.  People won’t understand why the students are sad to be home. They won’t understand they’ve left a piece of their hearts here. People don’t understand why they mourn the loss of people they’ve known only 9-12  months, the Americans not  REAL friends and family. Frequently it’s worse because they may never see these people again. 
Tips-  Photos-Condense your favorite photos into a small album  or on your Ipod of 50-60 pictures. Most people won’t look at more without being bored. Also good to keep the photos nearby for you to look at often.
Language problems-speak English without realizing it. Forget words in your native language. You will be translating from your language to English and back. It takes time, but language will come back.
Sleep problems-can’t sleep, dream in English for a while still.
Missed Culture-you were gone a whole year and things changed – dances, fashions, slang.
Parents, siblings, friends, pets reactions- Each year, some kids make plans with their friends to go away for a few days or week the day after their return. You owe it to your parents to stay with them your first week. Don’t be selfish. You’ve matured. Have patience with your parents. They think you’re the same kid who left last fall. You’re not the same, you’re still you, but it’s a different you.  Your brothers and sisters have grown and matured this last year.Their roles in the family may have changed. You may lose some friends. Look for older kids. People will listen to your entire year for about 5 minutes before they lose interest, and want to tell you about their year. 

Don’t make major decisions for the first few months. Give yourself time.  No longer a citizen of your native country, you’re now a citizen of the world. You see the world differently. You’ll always want to travel. Your thoughts about your country might be different than when you left it.  Pets or small children may be angry with you for abandoning them. People from your country might not believe you are one of them – You act like an American.


Maybe it knocked some sense in?
06-29-07, 6:43 pm
Filed under: Exchange Program, Home | Tags: , , , ,

Yesterday, my therapist said I exhibited ‘distorted thinking.’  I’d be offended, but she’s right.  I told her a party invitation was laying on the counter mocking me.  She pointed out invitations can’t talk, and said I had great reasons for attending the party.  I like parties once I’m actually there, but I dread them up until I arrive.  I concoct elaborate plans for staying  home, and make myself physically sick.

  cant-brain-oday.jpgI had to wait at a railroad crossing while walking the dogs last night.   When the pedestrian gate started going up, I ducked under to continue our walk.  As the arm goes up, the counterweight moves, too.  I forgot, and was a little too close. The arm hit my nape and ear.  I have a bruised lump on my nape, but didn’t lose my necklace or earring!  My head hit my shoulder, but I didn’t fall.  Of course, there were pedestrians and cars at the crossing, too.  We just kept walking.

I’m up to 19 pages of compressed emails for the horrible, unfair, racist international debacle.   How can you call volunteers for exchange students racist?  We deal with students from all over the world because we enjoy them.  Call me crazy, fugly, fat, old, anything but racist.   The students were all from the same continent.  They generally group themselves by language and country. 

Our Exchange Student will be returning home in 12 days.  His return will be hard on all 3 of us.  We knew what we were getting into, but the poor kid doesn’t yet.  We love him, and he loves us-I think. I hope.  It’s difficult to go from talking constantly to maybe weekly.  I’ve been storing up hugs.

What a pathetic beginning
06-27-07, 11:25 pm
Filed under: Exchange Students, Home | Tags: , , ,

fezThat was a sad initial post.  Almost half of the students have returned home.  I’m receiving farewell emails and cards daily.  The ‘Thank You’s’ are a fantastic way to get paid as a volunteer.
 I’ve had a HUGE problem with kids in the last few days.  I’m up to 16 pages of emails in a 9 point font.  Some of our students tour the US at the end of their year in the states.  Generally, the West Coast students come East to see Boston, New York, Niagara Falls, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC.  The East Coast students go to Disneyland, San Francisco, and Las Vegas.  Culture vs Party!  A few of my darlings were booted off their trip, and it’s an international incident.  They’re innocent!  No, they just got caught.  Get over it.  

Exchange today: Fez: “I wanna go to the beach with my friends.”
Me:  “Ok, where?”
Fez:  “Baltimore.”

Ciao, Chau, Chao, and Tchau
06-26-07, 12:33 am
Filed under: Exchange Students, Home

The students are returning to their countries.  They arrive in the states the first two weeks of August, and leave anytime from when school is out until 1 year minus a day.  The US students are returning, too.  It’s amazing to see them.  The US students look foreign, and the students here all look like ‘Amurrikens.’