How can you be involved?
Parents can be involved with the international experience in so many ways!
Encourage your student to research program types and destinations and make an informed decision about which program(s) to which they should apply. Discuss locations and different types of experiences with them, but ensure that your student takes the lead and responsibility for their experience as a successful time abroad requires independence, flexibility, and adaptability. A student may think that the faculty-led program is best because they have had friends who have participated or who will go with them, but a longer, more independent program may be better for their specific needs or interests. We can also help connect your students to one of our JBIP Ambassadors, who will share his/her experience. Hearing from another student may help make the decision clearer.
International travel will be the experience of a lifetime, but it can be stressful and confusing as well. Once your student selects a program, encourage them to prepare by: reading up on the host country and culture; researching travel in the host country and how to pack for the culture, climate, and activities; learning the language; watching movies; and sampling the cuisine. Though they should complete these tasks on their own, talk to them about: budgeting for their time abroad, exchanging money for the local currency, calling banks and credit cards to add travel notifications on accounts, and making copies of their passport and important documents to leave at home with you.
When your student travels abroad, there is a possibility that he/she will experience symptoms of culture shock. Remember that the first panicked phone call may be from a jet lagged student who is experiencing a new culture for the first time. Students' emotions often vacillate when they experience culture shock, from a state of excitement or thrill, to a state of discontent and or homesickness. This is all normal and part of the cultural adjustment process which can hit students at different points in the experience- some immediately upon arrival, and others several weeks in. Listen to his/her problems and provide a safe, friendly place to talk, but remind them that these feelings are natural and typically pass as the student gets to know the host culture better so that culture shock doesn't ruin the trip. Help your student go from culture shock to culture shift. Culture shift is when students can compare their home culture and host culture and see that they exist differently. These differences are ultimately what make the world go round and will be part of a journey they remember for the rest of their lives!
Support your child when he/she returns home. Many students go through reverse culture shock as they readjust to life in the US. Help him/her through the process by engaging in their journey. Help them tell their story through photos, memory books, international dinners, and family gatherings. You may not be able to understand what it is like to ride an elephant in India, but you can relish in the joy that it brought your student!