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How To Encourage Your Intern: Four Ways on Preventing Culture Shock

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Written by Caitlin Riddle

Since your student is on the Global Internship, what is there to do next? Well, I have the answer for you. Last week, I interviewed multiple students who went on internship last year. I asked them one question, “When you were on the Global Internship, what did your supporters do to help you get through culture shock?”

This post is a compilation of that great feedback on received so you could help the students you support.

What is Culture Shock?

Culture shock is defined as the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, a move between social environments, or simply travel to another country.

Students going through culture shock do not describe it as a pleasant experience. Most interns say that they were more sensitive to getting more sick due to viruses spreading around, food their bodies were not used to digesting, and their site’s climate that they’re not used to.

Many of our interns deal with culture shock due to the drastic change of food, language, clothing, etc.

Here is a list of how you can help out your interns work through culture shock:

1. Read Their Newsletter

The majority of our students write newsletters to keep their partners up to date. Even though they are across the planet from their home, each intern still aspires to write about the types of life challenges, blessings, and memorable moments they would like to inform their readers about.

“I was really encouraged when my supports would read, respond, and interact with the newsletters that I sent out. It showed how much they genuinely cared about my life updates.” —BGU Graduate

Most newsletters are written through a blog and then emailed to your inbox. If you are not sure if you’re getting your student’s newsletter, ask them if you can subscribe to their blog and they will be excited to add you to the list.

2. Send A Physical Letter or Card

Sending a hand-written letter or card to your intern inspires them. Like one of our students said, sending a physical letter through the mail shows them how much you care.

“There’s something that is so authentic about being able to hold a physical letter or card from a friend. I feel like you can quickly send a virtual message on the computer, but there’s something about having that individual person take those extra steps to show how much they care about me. Especially when I received different birthday and Christmas cards through the mail. I felt so loved.” —BGU Graduate

You could also create cards and date them. Some supporters wrote 365 little letters for each day that an intern could read through the entire year.  Others gave envelopes filled with notes for a special occasion. Rather than on their birthday or Christmas, they sent a letter to encourage them while being stressed about school, under the weather, or even if a student is just having a bad day.

3. Communicate With Your Intern

Another way of showing your support to an intern is by remaining in communication with them.

“It was very important to stay in contact with my supporters. Not only did they brighten my day, but also, I stay updated about what is going on with their lives. Rather that is someone becoming pregnant, having a baby, getting married or even getting a job that they have been searching for. I loved being able to know what my family and friends have been up to and what they are doing when I was on the mission field.” —BGU Graduate

Our students loved messaging and video chatting their loved ones. Even though the time change can be a little complicated, showing your student that you would like to have a conversation with them face-to-face, shows them how much you care.

Just contacting your student through a phone call, email, or a personal letter gives them the encouragement they need. When at their intern site, adapting to a different country, culture, and environment is not easy. The food taste foreign the clothing can be made a completely different style; the temperature can be more extreme as well…

“There were days that I just wanted to give up. It was extremely hot in Indonesia and all I wanted to do was go on a plane and fly back to my air-conditioned home in America.” One of our interns expressed.

“I got a phone call from a close friend of mine and they managed to stay up till three o’clock in their time zone, just so that I could hear their voice and be prayed over. When on internship… I cherished every time I was on the phone with a family member or friend.”

4. Ship A Gift or Care Package

We asked a variety of students of what they would have liked to see in their care packages. The top three answers are candy and cakes (mainly sour candy and sugar cakes), taco supplies (Mexican rice, soft tortilla shells, and taco seasoning), and peanut butter.

Also, another way of figuring out what to add to your care package is by keeping their internship site in mind. Are they located in Ghana or Kenya? Then they may need a mosquito net, repellent, or sunscreen. Sometimes toiletries are the way to go. Is there a particular brand of bar soap or toothpaste that your intern is accustomed to? Keep those types of items in mind.

Another item that most students want overseas are measuring spoons and cups. Another student that we interviewed, who was in France, described how different the metric system was from the United States. “We had a tough time converting different ingredients so that we could bake a cake or cook up some type of meal. Measuring cups and spoons in our site’s culture, would have been such a lifesaver!”

Some other items that our interns included were processed foods, spices, cheese, and foods that remind them of home.

A Word From an Intern

“I want to thank my supporters so much for not only donating money for me to go on my internship, but also for encouraging me when I was in Thailand. Many people think that once we reach our home-away-from-home that we do not need them or that forget about them. It is not easy juggling school, ministry, chores, and other responsibilities.

I really was thankful for my family, friends, and supporters who would send me something. Also, just having a conversation with a friend on the phone was like a breath of fresh air. To all supporters, thank you so much for having faith in us.

Thank you for not only your contributions but for building us interns up so that we can help make a difference on our internship. We wouldn’t have been able to reach other’s lives if it wasn’t for your love and support.” —BGU Graduate

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