Office of Global Citizenship
Support for your Student
It may seem unnecessary to say, but it is important for families and friends to support students who study abroad. There are two common unhelpful ways of interacting with a student abroad. First, excessive hovering over the student may prove a burden for the student and stunt the student’s personal growth while abroad. Leeway to explore and be challenged encourages the student to mature and develop as a young adult. In addition, families should be cognizant that a student may go through culture shock while abroad, leading to a longing for home. Limiting real-time forms of communication such as phone calls, texting and skyping will help the student abroad to focus on the host community rather than home. At the same time, it is important to provide the student a sense of security and connection to home while abroad. Striking the right balance will vary for each family and friend, but families and friends should seek to reduce unnecessary communication, as hard as that may be. The DIS website (Study Abroad in Scandinavia, an approved program) has some good basic advice on how families can support students while abroad, as well as prepare them to go abroad. Some study abroad program providers recommend limiting phone conversations with family and friends to once per week. Students may wish to use social media to update their friends and family on their explorations in order to reduce the need for direct contact.
A second problem that sometimes arises with students abroad is unconscious resentment toward the student. While a student goes abroad and has new, exciting experiences, family members and friends naturally may feel a twinge of jealousy or bitterness about being left behind. When the student returns from abroad, lingering resentment may come to surface, sometimes unexpectedly or unconsciously. For their part, students who return home likely will experience a form of reverse culture shock, which can cause the student to seem distant. Remaining alert to such feelings is a good way for both the returned student and the families and friends of the returned student to address them and to prevent them from harming relations after the student returns home.