There are some general guidelines that will help students in their adjustment. First of all, keep a sense of humor. There are many things that are funny five or ten minutes, an hour, or a day later. Try to not take yourself or those people who are around you that may be causing “difficulties” too seriously. Everything that happens is not a moral issue, and is not an issue of world-shattering importance. It may be minor, very minor, in its proper perspective. If it is addressed as such, it will not become an incident. However, if persons become volatile and defensive, things that are virtually minuscule will get blown all out of proportion. Another helpful guideline is that people who succeed are the ones who have persistence, and have kept on trying. Don’t give up.
No one is totally alone. There are other American and Canadian friends that can help sort out dilemmas. Discuss whether what is happening is important or not? Does it really need to be addressed? How can someone respond to it in a positive way? Generally, international people are not boisterous. One way to avoid becoming the object of undue criticism is to avoid being a boisterous, center-of-attention type person on the international campus and in any setting abroad. Being calm and cool is the international way. “Chill out” is a good motto for self-discipline.
If things aren’t going well, make good things happen. Make the most of every opportunity. Nine months goes by very fast. Don’t be one of the persons that says, “I wish I had started reaching out to other people sooner.” If things are not going well, find someone to talk to—a teacher, another ACA member, or the international campus director of the ACA program. Maintain a positive focus that will bring balance to other people who are also abroad.
Another rule of thumb is to assume the best about people unless repeated evidence points to the contrary. In a situation where communication is obstructed by people’s inabilities to express themselves well or understand what others are saying, misunderstandings can occur quite easily. Sometimes misunderstandings may occur because ACA students do not speak or comprehend well what is being spoken in the host language. Unfortunately, they get very inappropriate ideas about host campus personnel. As a result, they may see the hosts as severe and uncaring rather than as being matter of fact and professional. Assume that others have international students’ best interest in mind and are not “out to get foreigners.”
Expect that the food will be very different on international campuses. There may even be restrictions in the amount of certain food items that may be eaten in any one meal. The diet tends to be simple and nutritious, and initially American/ Canadian palates may not be attuned to its texture or taste. Some students even need antacids in their “adjustment periods”.
For some students these adjustments take longer. For others it is very simple.
Students on some international campuses may feel that they are not regarded as being as responsible or granted the same privileges and respect as they were in America or Canada. Student associations and student representatives on discipline or administrative councils are new or non-existent. Teachers and administrators are considered wise sages who have the best interest of students at heart and have vital long-term perspectives which have been developed over time. Their values and ways of doing things have been developed over many years. Change is slow and not considered as valuable as it is in North America. In fact, the fads and trends in North America are often considered signs of instability and of a lack of values. Tradition holds sway over the newest way or different ways of doing things. Because of this, it is not recommended that you try to “enlighten and inform” your hosts of the “better” way things are done in Canada or the United States. If there are some behaviors or ways of doing things that appear to violate personal conscience or destroy or attack people’s inner sense of personhood, frank, respectful discussion and proposals for changes should occur. However, expect some resistance and serious review of suggestions and do not expect immediate changes. They may be slow in coming, but if they have merit, they will occur even if it’s next year.