Wry Exchange


Spring Homesickness
03-03-09, 1:34 am
Filed under: Depression, Exchange Students, Outbounds Outbounds | Tags: ,

  Another student is homesick.

I’m a 17 year old girl, have been in France for 6 months, but I had to take a trip back to the states for University visits. My friends here have gone back to their respective countries, and while I have French friends, it’s not the same. Since I have come back from the US, I have been so so so homesick and I feel numb. I can’t eat and I have cried myself to sleep. I try to convince myself just to take it a week at a time, seeing as I only have 14 left, but it’s so hard. My teachers hate me because school is not my top priority seeing as I’m finished with it and they’re all mean to me. I don’t know if I can make it to the end. I don’t know what to do..
I feel strange about this one.  I am usually on the student’s side and feel empathy.  Maybe it’s because I’ve never known a student to return home for college visits.   Students in my program only go home for compassionate leave.     Maybe it’s because she feels the teachers hate her and are mean.  My snarky self thinks  ‘No,  they’re just being French.’   I’ve thought about this all day before writing.   Maybe it’s just because I forgot to take my happy pills 2 days last week.  We’ll go with that explanation.
Honestly, why wouldn’t she be homesick?  She was just home, and has to go through leaving a second time.  Her mid-year friends are gone.  It’s the middle of Winter.
Students from the Southern Hemisphere often go on January-January exchanges.  We don’t do January exchanges in my program.  It interupts the flow of the year.  We used to have 2-3 annually.  It’s hard on the mid-years.  They don’t fit in at school if they aren’t Juniors.  They don’t fit in with the other students who have been together since August for several months, and then the other kids go h0me.  They also teach the August newbies all the bad habits so they get a head start on rule breaking.
What advice can we give to this girl?  She doesn’t say anything about her host family.  Are they supportive and caring?  Would it help if she were to mentor the new arrivals?   What about her French?  Is it improving?  Doesn’t attending school help with language?  What about the parents and friends at home?  Are they encouraging her to come back home or be strong?
My best advice is to take one day at a time.  Think of something good each day.  Try to get some physical exercise to exhause your body so you can sleep.  Take naps after school if you can’t sleep at night.  2 years from now, this time will seem to have gone by in a snap.  You can do this.
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Dear Wry – I’m Miserable
09-18-08, 4:31 pm
Filed under: Depression, Exchange Students, Outbounds Outbounds | Tags: , ,

 Dear Wry,
Im an exchange student in my second month of a year long exchange in Sweden.
i googled homesickness and look at this, a the second link site about homesickness for exchange students, and you even write about the 3 month slump, where you settle back into what seems to be inevitable, repetitive an boring day to day life. you nailed it with – “the family sometimes annoys them, school is boring, and their lives are almost what it would be if they didn’t go on exchange. Except they’d be back home with their friends, families, and pets.”
I actively hate my host parents, but luckily, because im with rotary ill switch in 4 months to a reallylovely host family. but for now im stuck with these people i hate, a mother who i think is kind on some levels but is rude, tactless, and controlling, and a father who creeps me out, and it super annoying. Ive realized that highschool is highschool everywhere, and the people are still 16-18 year olds, my town is small, people here are super shy and its hard to make friends, esp with the language boundary. Even if were easy, is super difficult too find people who really interests me.
but going home is not an option, and i know i need to stick it out, and it will improve, it has for everyone else and i am a social creature so i know i will make friends, but for now im incredibly lonely and im startíng to feel homesick. and i know that ill need to keep active to keep it at bay, but my school offers no clubs or extracurricular activities.i guess i dont really have a straight question you could answer im just pretty desperate for something to make me feel less like how i feel right now.
Rose

Dear Rose,

if you ‘actively hate’ your host family, MOVE NOW.  Tell your Rotary counselor.  If you don’t get help from him/her, tell your Rotary counselor back in the states.  Rotary has very strict rules in place.  If your host father gives you the creeps, that’s a huge sign it’s time to get out.  This is YOUR year, ½ of it shouldn’t be with people who make you miserable.   This is unacceptable in a Rotary program.

Are other exchange students near you?  Are any former exchange students around?  Does your Rotary program have meetings, language lessons, or trips available to you?  It’s normal for European schools not to have extracurriculars, but is there a nearby gym you can join?  Are there any sports clubs?  If your town is small, can you take public transportation to a different town to explore?  What do students in your school do for fun?  Find one kid a day, and try to talk to him or her.  They’re probably intimidated by you. 

 I added you to my MSN Messenger list, if you use it, we can chat later.  Keep in touch.



Dear Wry, I’m Homesick
09-16-08, 12:03 pm
Filed under: Depression, Exchange Students, Outbounds Outbounds | Tags: ,

 Dear Wry,
Hi, im 17 Im in France on exchange at the moment, and im feeling really homesick! Ive been here six months already without any major problems, but now, with my return to school, and change of host families, Ive become really low, physically and mentally. I changed classes at school, and talked to my host family to help me, but nothing seems to make me feel better. I feel like going home, but I know that if i do Ill regret it for the reqt of my life. Can you help me? i feel like Ive tried everything!
Katie in France

Dear Katie,
STAY!  You can do this.  You’re over halfway through your year.  Are you getting bored?  Have you travelled?  Can you go visit other exchange students you’ve met?  You didn’t mention your counselor in your letter.  Is s/he helpful and concerned?  You didn’t mention friends in your letter.  Do you have a few close friends to talk to and hug?  You’re on a mid-year exchange, they’re tougher.  Are you with a new class of younger students at school now?  Can you find something to do to challenge your mind at school-helping a teacher or younger students?  How is your new host family?  Are you comfortable with them?  Have you already graduated back home, and your friends are going off to college?  Maybe you feel left behind.  Can you volunteer to help someone else?  It would take your mind off of yourself.  Can you find a job a few hours a day?  You need to do some type of physical activity, if you exhaust your body, you’ll sleep better at night.  I’m sorry, I don’t know what to say to help you from so far away.  I can point out possible problems, and suggest solutions.  Most of all, I can offer virtual hugs, and chats by MSN Messenger. 

*Actual reader letter.  Please remember I’m not a professional, and I don’t play one on tv.  I’m just a caring, experienced volunteer. 



How is Your Exchange Student?

 How is your student doing?  If you are a FES abroad, how are you?   Is life good?

Physical Self-Are the headaches going away?  Are you getting enough sleep, but not too much?  Has your stomach adjusted to the food?  How is your weight-stable, or are you gaining/losing weight?  Are you getting enough exercise? 

Mental Self-Can you help yourself when you’re lonely, bored, sad, or homesick?  Are your language and comprehension skills improving?  If you take medication regularly, do you remember to take it?  Do you have someone to talk to?  Do you feel strong and confident?

Emotional Self-Are you crying for no reason?  Do you get frustrated and feel like you just can’t think?  Are you slowly distancing yourself from ‘home’ to your new home?  Are you enjoying yourself?

If you need help, ask for it NOW.  Don’t wait.  It’s much easier to fix a small problem now than a big mess later.  “Things will get better” isn’t always true.  People want to help you.  We all know this is one year-your year.  You aren’t alone.



Culture Shock Again

From last year:  Is your student homesick, depressed, or bored?  The students have been in their new countries, including the US, for 6-7 weeks now.  They are over the initial culture shock, and they are able to communicate in their new languages.  They should feel comfortable within their host families, and have new friends.   Everything should be wonderful.  This is supposed to be “The Best Year of Their Lives”  But sometimes, it’s not.
 It’s the second wave of culture shock.  Their lives have become routine.  What the students are doing now is what they’ll be doing for the next 8-11 months.  The realization that they are living in a family with rules, the family sometimes annoys them, school is boring, and their lives are almost what it would be if they didn’t go on exchange.  Except they’d be back home with their friends, families, and pets.
Solution?  Keep them busy!  The kids should have all sorts of activities going on.  They should be playing some type of sports, or getting exercise of some type daily.  The students should join clubs-Drama, Language, 4-H, Scouts, Chess, Swim team, etc.  Most of the kids should not come home from school and stay  all night.  (Sparky, P, and Cle were all content to stay home often, but they were happy.  They weren’t homesick or bored. Husband and I also didn’t expect them to be our little friends and stay to keep us company.  Some host families want to keep the students all to themselves. That’s not healthy for anyone.) They are exchange students to learn the culture of their country.   Let them visit with another exchange student, or invite one overnight.  The student should see his counselor regularly.  The exchange program should have activities at least once a month for the kids.  The host family should plan activities with the student; they don’t have to be expensive-go for a hike, go fishing,  or yard sale shopping.  Take the student to a football or volleyball game, and permit (shove) them to sit with friends and go out with the others after the game.   Take the student to help volunteer-She can coach younger kids, he can visit senior citizens.  Anything to take their minds off of themselves.



November & December Homesickness Alert
11-11-07, 4:53 pm
Filed under: Depression, Exchange Students, hosting | Tags: , , ,

 It’s time for another bout of homesickness…. sadness…. blahs…. pissyness…don’t feel quite like yourself-itis.   It’s homesickness or culture shock again.   This is typically the final bout of homesickness.  (Culture shock will return as reverse culture shock.)

There are many reasons for this round of misery; for some of you, the days are growing shorter, and you may be experiencing SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)  From the Mayo Clinic:  You may find yourself eating more or sleeping more when the temperature drops and darkness falls earlier. While those are common and normal reactions to the changing seasons, people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) experience a much more serious reaction when summer shifts to fall and on to winter.   With seasonal affective disorder, fall’s short days and long nights may trigger feelings of depression, lethargy, fatigue and other problems. Don’t brush this off as simply a case of the “winter blues” that you have to tough out on your own.  Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression, and it can severely impair your daily life.

Symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of energy
  • Social withdrawal
  • Oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating and processing information

Other reasons:

  • Prom and graduation time in South America.  The students here in the US have to miss these important rites of passage, and the students in the Southern Hemisphere may be sad to miss their Prom and graduation with their friends in the Spring.
  • It’s The Holidays!  No matter how much you hate turkey and going to your grandparents for Thanksgiving, it’s your tradition.  You will miss it.   Familiar rituals bring comfort.   You are missing the food, decorations, shopping, dances, etc that you grew up with.  You will be affected.
  • Are you bored? Nothing is new anymore, it’s starting to feel like just another day of school, sleep, repeat.  Can you start a new hobby or take classes?  Join a dance or martial arts studio? 
  • How’s the host family? Do you get along with them? Do you love them?  Would you be better off  if you moved?

Just hold on until after New Year’s.  The year starts going so fast after the holidays, and you shouldn’t have anymore bouts of homesickness.  You should start identifying with your new country, and it gets much, much easier.  The advice is the same-don’t drink too much, and keep busy.  If you need to move, tell your counselor.  If you can’t get your coordinator or counselor to help you, have your parents contact the US branch.  Or look up their website, and email them.  Threaten to tell everyone you know that they are not helping you.  Take care of yourself.



Homesick, Depressed, or Bored?
09-27-07, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Culture, Depression, Exchange Students | Tags: , , , , ,

The students have been in their new countries, including the US, for 6-7 weeks now.  They are over the initial culture shock, and they are able to communicate in their new languages.  They should feel comfortable within their host families, and have new friends.   Everything should be wonderful.  This is supposed to be “The Best Year of Their Lives”  But sometimes, it’s not.
 It’s the second wave of culture shock.  Their lives have become routine.  What the students are doing now is what they’ll be doing for the next 8-11 months.  The realization that they are living in a family with rules, the family sometimes annoys them, school is boring, and their lives are almost what it would be if they didn’t go on exchange.  Except they’d be back home with their friends, families, and pets.
Solution?  Keep them busy!  The kids should have all sorts of activities going on.  They should be playing some type of sports, or getting exercise of some type daily.  The students should join clubs-Drama, Language, 4-H, Scouts, Chess, Swim team, etc.  Most of the kids should not come home from school and stay  all night.  (Sparky, P, and Cle were all content to stay home often, but they were happy.  They weren’t homesick or bored. Husband and I also didn’t expect them to be our little friends and stay to keep us company.  Some host families want to keep the students all to themselves. That’s not healthy for anyone.) They are exchange students to learn the culture of their country.   Let them visit with another exchange student, or invite one overnight.  The student should see his counselor regularly.  The exchange program should have activities at least once a month for the kids.  The host family should plan activities with the student; they don’t have to be expensive-go for a hike, go fishing,  or yard sale shopping.  Take the student to a football or volleyball game, and permit (shove) them to sit with friends and go out with the others after the game.   Take the student to help volunteer-She can coach younger kids, he can visit senior citizens.  Anything to take their minds off of themselves.