Wry Exchange

Homesickness & Culture Shock
08-16-07, 12:06 am
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Students | Tags: , , , ,

Short Answer-Keep busy! 
Homesickness is part of culture shock.  Teenagers have left everything they love behind to go halfway across the world.  They are brave, but need our help.  It’s difficult going to another country with a different language.  Even if these students have studied the language for years, they will be suprised at the difficulty communicating.  Expect them to have stress and require a lot of sleep for the first few weeks.
The student should find other students from his country or program to talk to.  No one understands what it’s like to be an exchange student except another exchange student.  There are many support groups on Facebook.   The students can buy phonecards online at NobelcomRebtel is a pain to set up, but it’s great once you get it working.  Rebtel works with cellphones; you call a local number.  I use both a lot.
Students also experience culture shock when they find they’ll be living in small town, USA instead of Miami, LA, or NYC.  Many kids expect life to be like it is in movies or on MTV.  We don’t have public transportation, pubs, or dance clubs for students.  They have to find a new way to have fun.  It just takes time.
I tell students to keep moving, don’t sit and think too much.  It’s good to check email and chat a bit, but it’s not healthy to sit for hours in front of the computer.  If  she misses her dog, play with someone’s dog.  If he misses his little brother, make friends with the neighbor’s toddler.  Take the student to the grocery store and cook a familiar meal together.   The students should join the band or a sports team for the comaraderie and endorphins.
I’ve known students to have a calendar where they count down days until they can return home. That’s the wrong attitude.  They should concentrate on getting through each day, then till school starts, then Homecoming, then Thanksgiving, and finally Christmas/New Year’s Day.  If the student can hang on until Christmas, they’ll finish out the year. 
Help your student find something familiar. It may be food, music, clothing, sports, or a hobby.  Try to keep the students moving.   When students complete a year as an exchange student, they are confident.  Nothing will ever be as difficult again.  Tell them to focus on their future.  They want to learn English, our culture, and this year will help their future immensely. The quicker they learn English, the faster they assimilate.  Culture shock and homesickness are normal.  Acknowledge the feelings, but don’t wallow in them.

Husband and I tell the students to repeat-“It’s not better, it’s not worse, it’s just different” as many times as needed.  Sometimes they repeat it so often it becomes their mantra.

4 Comments so far
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Nice to hear that you like using Rebtel!

I work for Rebtel and it would be great to know in what way you found it a pain to set up. We’ve tried to make it as easy as possible, either through our webpage or via SMS (just text the name and number of the person you want a local number for and we’ll text you back).

We’ve also launched a facebook application – if you’re in there, try it out – we hope that it makes it even easier to make Rebtel contacts!


Comment by Linus Kendall

I found Rebtel on Facebook. The first night, a former student in Chile and I tried for 2 hours to set up numbers and call each other. It NEVER worked! It seems like the first phone call takes forever and many attempts, but once it works, then the problems go away. I’ve used Rebtel to talk with Argentina, Brasil, Bolivia, and Chile. I’ve told all of my former students via email to try Rebtel.

Comment by Wry

Hey Wry!

That’s interesting – could’ve been a temporary glitch with our connection to Chile. I’ll make sure to asks some techs here if there could’ve been any specific cause to the troubles so that we can make sure they aren’t repeated!

Nice that you like the service and I hope that your students have a lot of use for it!

I like your blog – I work with AIESEC (internship exchanges) here in Stockholm and many things of what you bring up I see daily in AIESEC here 🙂

Take care,

Comment by linuskendall

Wry and God,
Much agreed about the Mantra thing! I have used and fed further many a time!

Comment by Will

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