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Helping Returning Students

What Family and Friends Can Do To Help Returning Students Readjust to America

Some students find reentry at home rough.  Here are a few ways that family and friends can make the transition back home smoother for the cross cultural sojourner.

  1. Show interest.  Returnees very much need to share their experiences with you.  They overdo it, of course, and show far too many slides (and may never ask you about your life during the last month or semester), but try to be kind.  They do not mean to be rude; they’re just excited!
  2. Don’t be offended when they criticize their home country (which is also yours) and constantly compare it unfavorably with their cross cultural experience.  They don’t include you in their sweeping generalizations, and they don’t mean you’re a fool to like it here, so don’t get defensive.  They’re just on edge and a little lost.  Just smile and offer them another helping of their favorite ice cream!
  3. Don’t make them feel defensive.  Sometimes, by not understanding how hard reentry back home can be, you make returnees feel that there’s something wrong with them, that they should be happy and content, that there’s no reason they should be having a hard time.  Even if you don’t understand, act as if you do.
  4. Don’t pressure them to visit all the time.  Parents and grandparents take note:  give your loved ones some breathing room.  Yes, it’s rude of them not to come more often and stay longer, but at least they’re back home!
  5. Don’t spring family problems and responsibilities on them too soon.  No doubt it’s high time they started shouldering their share of family duties again, but give them a few weeks to get their balance.  
  6. Above all, be patient:  They’re not going to act like this forever.  Whatever irritating, insensitive, disturbing, or alarming thing they do or say, don’t take it too seriously.  If they’re still acting or talking like this after a couple of months, then you can start to worry.
  7. Please understand, the longer the person has had a positive experience in another culture, the longer and more difficult their readjustment time may be.