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While it can be a difficult adjustment once your student leaves, it it vital to their experience abroad for you to let go and be supportive from afar. Studying abroad offers students a chance to discover a new culture and grow independently, so it is important for them to adapt independently. Here are some of the challenges they may face and how you can be supportive from afar.
Students will experience culture shock during their time abroad. To help them during this time of tumultuous emotions, it is important that you understand the phases of culture shock. This shock normally starts with a honeymoon period that then turns to frustration and confusion due to minor cultural differences. The shock ends on a high note as the student learns to understand and cope with the differences. It is important to offer support by listening to your student's struggles and encourage them to solve these problems themselves.
This is one of the harder ways of support, as you are probably very curious about your student's experiences and want to hear about their adventures. Remember, this is a time for your student to meet new people, whether through other students studying abroad or interacting with the locals. Set up a regular time to communicate, so both of you have peace of mind about when you will get to talk. When interacting with your student, listen more than talk. Don't overwhelm them too much to the point they become homesick. Also, let them know how proud you are of them for taking on this new adventure in their life!
Adjusting to a new culture will probably be difficult for your student, but it is a part of every study abroad student's experience. One of the best aspects of studying abroad is overcoming obstacles and having students learn how to fend for themselves in certain situations. As a family member, your support and understanding goes a long way. Offer your student advice or talk to them about what you would have done - after the situation has happened. By letting your student fail, learn and eventually succeed on their own, you are guaranteeing their independence abroad.
Visiting your student abroad is a great way for both of you to share in a new cultural experience. Like mentioned earlier on this page, studying abroad is not a vacation for students; they are learning and attending classes.So keep in mind that if you visit, your student may have deadlines and homework as well as their own unique lifestyle. Make sure that if you do visit during the term, you are supporting your student's studies and their learning experiences. The best time to visit your student is normally at the end of the term or during a semester break. This ensures that both you and your student have the same 'vacation' mentality as they will not be busy with their studies.