A letter to Foreign Exchange Students, from their Coordinator, telling it like it is, may be what some of these kids need. The first one of the school year was exactly that!
Lisa is our Coordinator. She helps manage 16 Students and their Host Families. She has given me permission to share her email with my Blog Readers, to give you perspective on what these Teens may be experiencing after their first month in the United States.
Here is the first part of the email with my comments following:
“STUDENTS– Have you been feeling sad, irritable, sleeping too much or too little, critical toward host family and surroundings, anger, fear, or don’t feel like yourself? Well it’s that time of year….Homesickness/ Culture Shock. It’s real and can affect even the most confident student.”
“FAMILY– What can you do to help? Good Question….Acknowledge your student’s feelings, but realize you are not responsible for those feelings. Encourage rest, exercise, and eating well. I’ve found this to be most helpful. Don’t confuse Culture Shock with Depression. Communicate! You all seem to be doing this well….I am very pleased with everyone’s ability to communicate this year. Remember no problem is too small to address immediately. Please refer to your handbook or contact me if you would like more information or other ways to get through this tough time. EXPECT A QUICK RECOVERY!! The exchange year goes by quick, you don’t want to miss it.”
As for Lara…I’m not seeing feelings of sadness or being irritable after being here for 6 weeks. She’s been happy… singing and dancing in the house. You know… typical teen girl stuff. She’s seems to be adjusting well, making friends, sleeping well, handling homework… except of course for U.S. History…somewhat of a thorn in all of our sides since we have to translate a lot of it for her. But she’s taking it in stride and makes jokes about the class and the teacher.
As for our Family… we are learning more about Lara’s personality and sense of humor every day…as she is about us. I’m still working on the “what-to-pack-for-her-lunch” issue so she doesn’t get bored…and she’s starting to tell me more of what she likes and dislikes. She’s starting to play some practical jokes on us and us on her. It’s been fun.
The next part of Lisa’s email is as follows:
“Another common “issue” right now is that the students are struggling to adjust to having to keep their family informed on their whereabouts. Well…get over it….it’s just how it is here in America. Keep your family INFORMED …they will want to meet your friends, or your “date”, or want to talk with your friends’ parents, or know what time you will be home and who you are with. American parents like to talk and know how you are feeling and what’s going on in your life, especially the moms. It’s not wierd, just different for some of you.
Please remember that your host parents feel responsible for you (don’t hold it against them) and want to return you to your natural parents healthy, safe, and well taken care of. This is a good thing!!! It doesn’t mean they don’t trust you or think you are irresponsible. Some suggestions to make this transition easier…Have a family calendar so everyone can see each other’s schedule. Give your host parents at least a days notice should you need a ride somewhere. Invite your friends into the house to meet your family should they come pick you up. Obey curfews and house rules (most of your American friends will have similar curfews anyway).”
As for Lara and Us…
We’re not having any issues like this… just yet. We got her the “electronic leash/cell phone” so I can keep in touch with her. One of my previous Blogs addresses this: https://lifewithlara.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/the-paranoid-american-mother/.
In fact, last night was the first time she went one way and Brittany went another. She attended the Homecoming Carnival at school while Brittany went to Softball practice. Lara met friends there… friends she has met through Brittany. She nursed a friend with a bloody nose… and gave us details all about trying to find towels to help her… got a few “freebies” from Teachers working the Carnival who know her as the German Exchange Student and just had a good time on her own.
I understand curfew issues will probably come up at some time but I don’t anticipate Lara being the kind of girl who’s going to push the limits and rules. She’s very grounded in her manners, beliefs and respect for others. She says “Please” and “Thank You”, even for the littlest things…and I appreciate that. Her family has done a wonderful job raising a responsible young lady and I am so very thankful that they are sharing her with us for the school year!
***Coming up: It’s Homecoming weekend so you know there will be plenty of pictures and a Blog about that! For those reading the Blog in Germany and Croatia… and a few other countries… I will be sure to explain Homecoming… if you haven’t Googled it already!!!