For two years now I have worked with an organization that places foreign students from all over the world with American families for a year. This year I am working with one girl who has been here for about a week and already feels like giving up. She says it is a flaw in her character – that she is not homesick, but just doesn’t feel like this is an experience that will give her anything.
I imagine that at that age, it’s really hard to see past the immediate problems. If it’s hard it’s hard, if it’s easy it’s easy and there’s no middle ground.
I tried to share with her how I felt when I was in Ghana. There were many times where I felt lonely, hot, and anxious. There wasn’t always much to do, school wasn’t particularly challenging — traveling was the only thing that made me really happy and it wasn’t feasible to do that on my own so I had to rely on other people’s schedules. Halfway through my semester, I came down with malaria and it was awful, absolutely awful. When I break down my experiences like that, I can think of times when I was unhappy and I can think about everything I didn’t like. In fact, there was a time, immediately after the malaria when I wanted to come home and nearly did. But when someone asks me, “How did you like studying abroad in Ghana” my immediate reaction is, I loved it! I would do it again in a heartbeat!
I made friends with whom I will have a life-long connection.
I went on amazing adventures, some of them a little dangerous.
And I learned a great deal about another culture and another side of the globe. When someone talks about Ghana, or West Africa, my ears perk up and I pay attention. I feel inexorably connected to that part of the world.
I hope that this student who is feeling so overwhelmed will stick it out and be able to look back on her experiences instead of going home early and regretting it.