Before your student leaves, you should discuss your plan for communication during the student's time abroad. It is important to have a system in place for getting in touch in case of an emergency. Also, remember that the more time students spend communicating with family and friends back home, the less time they spend immersing themselves in their host culture.
We encourage you to visit your student while abroad if possible, but it is important that the visit is timed appropriately. The beginning of programs is a time when students are transitioning to life abroad and developing friendships. Parents and guardians are encouraged to wait until the end of the term. Your student should then be able to show you favorite places, impress you with foreign language skills, and introduce you to new friends.
Culture shock is a normal part of the study abroad experience and most students will experience it to some degree during their time abroad. Culture shock is rarely identified as such by the person experiencing it. Remember, your student is much more likely to share negatives than positives with you as students are more likely to call in times of frustration. Please try to frame their frustrations in a positive light because they are part of the study abroad experience and contribute to your student’s growth.
Reverse culture shock is as common as the culture shock students experience abroad. Most students don’t realize how much they have changed from their study abroad experience until they arrive home. One of the biggest frustrations after returning home is that people are not as interested in hearing the details about the students’ experiences as they would like. Family should listen to students’ stories and look at their pictures. It is also important to encourage them to stay in touch with friends they made overseas, continue to practice foreign language skills, and get involved when they are back on campus.