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Preparing for Life Abroad

In fact, it is so normal, that it has been studied and classified into stages:

The honeymoon stage


This is when the student is so thrilled with her dream coming true at last, that she is enamoured with everything the new country has to offer, as in, ‘Wow, my classmates are so friendly and fun! There is so much to do here! I love my teachers, my roommate, my dorm!”

The hostility stage

Once classes begin in full earnest, and the first couple of poor test grades roll in, the rose-coloured glasses come off and feelings usually swing to the other end of the pendulum. Coping with too many unfamiliar things at a time takes its toll, and the student begins hating everything that is not like what she was used to – the food, the weather, etc. Usually, she expresses her feelings by disliking the host country and its people (“I can’t stand these fake Americans!”) or she idealises home (“All Indian teachers were so caring and understanding”). It is important to realise at this stage that this is only a phase, and to ride it out. If your daughter is having a tough time, encourage her to talk to her professors, seniors, academic advisor or the international student coordinator.

The humour stage

This is when one is willing to make light of one’s confusion, and be able to laugh to ease the tension of not knowing what is appropriate or how to make sense of something.

At home stage

In this stage, the student has reached a general level of comfort with her new life. She may still have many questions and awkward moments, but she has also grown comfortable with the campus, her classmates and her professors. She  experiments with strategies to learn what she needs to know.

Different lifestyles

Other aspects of life abroad that take some getting used to are the cultural differences between the East and the  West, especially in terms of alternative lifestyles and attitudes towards privacy. Coming from a more conservative country  like India, where public displays of affection are not as common, permissive attitudes in other countries can take some getting used to! In addition, many teenagers are exploring their sexuality at this age, and being in college and away from  parental control does often lead to some degree of experimentation. It is important that you and your offspring retain a sense of proportion and balance during such times. Also, different cultures have different ideas about privacy  and, in the west especially, a lot of importance is given to freedom of expression. Many international students from eastern cultures find even the communal bathrooms in the dorms disconcerting at first. It is important to keep an open mind and not be too hasty in judging or condemning people — who may just turn out to be some of the nicest people you will ever know!


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