On Saturday, September 27th, New Oasis International Education participated in a fun and exciting culinary event in the Charlotte region. Students hailed from seven different schools, including Providence Day School, Charlotte Country Day School, Carmel Christian School, Charlotte Catholic High School, Cannon School, Christ the King Catholic High School and Northside Christian School.
Ten students from New Oasis joined in the fun and festivities. Loren Fauchier, Global Director for Providence Day School and Kathy Freeman, Southeast Regional Director for New Oasis International Education chaperoned the event. The students had a full afternoon and evening filled with bowling and shopping at a nearby Asian market. Six of the students had never bowled before, so this was a new experience and exposed them to one of the fun activities American students regularly enjoy.
The students all enjoyed the shopping trip to a local Asian market, and purchased many foods that they are accustomed to eating in China. They were excited to experience a small taste of home, and looked forward to taking the food that they purchased back to share with their host families. Mrs. Freeman enjoyed watching the student’s excitement as they discovered foods and snacks that they were missing from China while they have been studying in the United States.
The students finished the evening at the home of Mr. Loren Fauchier, where they had an authentic Chinese meal and fresh dumplings prepared by Mr. Fauchier and his wife. Mrs. Fauchier is from Nanjing, China and Mr. Fauchier studied in Nanjing years ago. He speaks excellent Chinese, so the students enjoyed sharing with him in Chinese, about their experiences in their new schools and American host families. New Oasis is grateful to the Fauchier family for hosting the students for dinner in their home, and for their hospitality and passion for Chinese students. This was a wonderful way to end a fun-packed day filled with new friendships, food, fun and fellowship!
Kelly Myers, a New Oasis Student Coordinator, recently wrote to the host families of her students about what culture shock means for an international student. This information may be helpful for any families with students working through culture shock or “homesickness”. Below is the letter written by Kelly Myers:
“After speaking with several students and host parents, some of the new students are in a season of Culture Shock. You may find some of the second year students also experiencing this as they return and get readjusted. Culture Shock is a real condition. It will start in about the first month and may last into the fourth month. The students probably do not realize what is going on within themselves during this time. The best way for them to describe it is they are homesick for their family, their food, and their friends. So many new things such as school rules, house rules, different methods of teaching, a different way to study for classes, different foods, different religious beliefs, or trying to constantly understand the language are all factors that may cause Culture Shock. All of these changes have been thrown at them in a very short time and it is bound to be overwhelming.
You may be seeing signs of stress and anxiety from all of these changes. Please know this is not a reflection on you as host parents. You can not smile, love, feed or care for them enough to keep them from being homesick or longing to be around familiar surroundings, but your love and support is what will get them through.
Listed below is information that may help your family and help your student cope over the next few months. These ideas are from the book, “Host Family Survival Kit: A Guide for American Host Families”.
What does Culture Shock look like
1. Feeling helpless/dependent
2. Ignoring rules or exhibiting unusual shyness
3. Longing for family and friends who “understand”
4. Lashing out in anger over something minor
5. Retreating to bedroom with tears
6. Excessive critical reactions to host culture/stereotyping
7. Anxiety over going to church
8. Spending a lot of time on the phone with family/friends
9. Spending excessive amounts of time in one’s room
Ways to Ease Students Distress
1. Find some one on one time and talk about Culture Shock and what it looks like
2. Ask open ended questions like, what has been difficult for you, what is your biggest challenge, what do you miss most, share with me some changes you did not expect.
2. Explain Culture Shock is a very intense learning process that can have lifelong benefits as he/she works through this process.
3. Explain it is normal to feel and experience this season and it is temporary.
4. Biggest misunderstanding by students is that this only happens to “weak-willed, immature, or poorly “adjusted” students.
5. Explain that even adults who travel outside their culture also go through the process of Culture Shock.
1. Encourage them to reach out to other friends
2. Have them invite a friend over for a meal, movie, game time etc
3. Take them to a restaurant that has food similar to their culture
Allow for “TIME OUT”
1. The emotional roller coaster of Culture Shock is not continuous
2. When you sense your student is having a bad day refrain from deep conversations or adding new house routines.
3. Give them some time out from communication and learning
4. People do not function well or think clearly when they are anxious. If pushed during these times you may see them become defiant and panic stricken. This is a reaction to so many things happening internally.
5. If your student is spending all of their time away from the family, then a “check in” with the student is needed. Reaching out to the student to spend one on one time and bringing them into the family life is important to make them feel included.
There will be times your student will just need to be alone. They may be experiencing confused feelings, mental exhaustion, or homesick. They may need this time alone to regroup, rest, and process.
Understand your student is not rejecting you. It is not that your student does not love you, it is just a time during this Culture Shock they can not give out; they may not have the energy.
Have your student get some extra rest. Explain that their body needs time to recover from the school day. By getting rest it will help them to have a better perspective of their goals and reasons for coming to study in the United States. Many of the students are working hard to translate and understand all the English words used in class. It is exhausting. They may be better able to deal with the process they are experiencing with some additional rest.
Suggestion: Ask them to turn off their phones and internet at 10pm
No Exit Situations
One of the most tempting, and also one of the least helpful, responses any parent can make to a difficult situation is to issue an ultimatum. For example, if they have been on the phone a lot to home and friends, do not go to the extreme and take all phone calls away. Talk about calling home and friends 3 times a week so that the student can focus on the American family. Explain that constant communication with home and friends can stir up sad feelings or anxiety and will take the focus off the reason they came to America. It also takes away from getting to to bond with the host family.
Just coping with simple things like getting along in the family or doing homework takes energy. Simplify by not putting your student in stressful situations, such as leaving your student home alone for extended periods of time, taking him/her to parties, pressuring him/her to make high grades, prohibiting him/her from calling home or talking with other international students, teasing or joking about his/her culture or their different behavior.
To recap, ask open ended questions and share with them what Culture Shock looks like. This will help them have a better understanding of the process they will have to work through. It will be hard at times to watch them struggle, but with your support through conversations, helping them to get connected, and unconditional love they will grow through this process.”
Huff, N. K. (1997). Host Family Survival Kit: A Guide for American Host Families. Yarmouth: Intercultural Press, Inc.
Recognizing and Managing Homesickness; Part 1, from an Educator’s View
Homesickness is a feeling of illness experienced when one is away from their home, their family, their friends and all that is familiar. It can hurt like a fractured bone or a broken heart. The good news is that this condition is curable with a little TLC and courage. Homesickness can, in fact, give way to a new sense of confidence and a very positive outlook on life and adventure.
Although each student may exhibit their own unique symptoms of homesickness, here are a few common signs:
So what is the cure for homesickness? Having suffered terribly from the condition myself as a student abroad, I can tell you that the cure stems from the decision to not give up and to remind oneself that you may always go home. The “one foot in front of the other” and “one day at a time” approach may seem simple but it is effective. Students should be encouraged to remember that their time in the US is fleeting, and rather than fixating on what ones friends and family are doing at home they should embrace every moment in the now. These words of encouragement should come from trusted adults at school or home and they should be continual and sincere.
All students should seek out a trusted teacher, host parent or coordinator as soon as the school year begins. Moreover, those individuals should make themselves known to the international community as it should be assumed that students may need to find them during the first weeks of school. Arrange check in times to be sure students are managing and not on the precipice of the homesickness cliff. In doing so, students will feel much more comfortable opening up on bad days. Homesickness is best approached when the student feels comfortable and able to speak openly and honestly about their feelings with someone who they believe has had the same experience, or can understand what they are going through.
As an educator, I have spent many lunch hours and preps sitting with students as they break down in sobs and express their determination to return home. Often, crying is very cathartic and all that is needed. Students will feel a sense of peace in knowing that they can check in and chat and find reassurance in knowing that I was there and in their corner. I have always found that students just needed their feelings heard, to be acknowledged, and to be provided survival skills.
Here are some tips for student, teachers and host families regarding the overcoming of homesickness:
Unless you have traveled abroad to a country not sharing your native tongue and culture can you truly appreciate what our students go through as they work their way through the first weeks of life in the U.S. However, when provided the skills and support to overcome homesickness, our students will arrive on the other side much better prepared to face life’s challenges with new found courage and self confidence.
About the contributor: Jennifer Morrissey is the Northeast Regional Director for New Oasis International Education. Jen previously served as the Director of International Students and SEVIS PDSO/DSO at a private secondary day school in Pennsylvania where she facilitated development of the school’s flag ship international program which included ESL and support programs for students from around the world. Over the course of her career, Jennifer has taught German Language, English, ESL, developed Gifted and Talented programs, and moderated both International Club and Deutschklub at both the middle and high school levels.