Picture by Johannes Plenio
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, resilience is:
1: the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress
2: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change
The same as happens with empathy, which is an essential tool at intercultural communication, resilience should be taught to students going abroad as a key to many situations they may experience.
Throughout a program abroad, students are going to experience a few events of “misfortune or change”. We usually hear them saying that the experience will change their lives, but sometimes they are not really ready for quite a change. This fact has to do, on one side, with students’ expectations and character, and on the other side with the previous training that students undergo, wether it is done by their home universities or by themselves.
Students need to be aware that spending time in a different culture is going to be hard; specially during the first days, they are going to go through different stressful situations, from using a different language on a daily basis to meeting new people. These situations will not always be easy and they need to learn how to deal with frustration and how to overcome hard moments.
In order to do this, I recommend that students:
- Are told about some challenging situations and ways to solve them (I can give you many examples)
- Receive training on how todeal with and express their emotions
- Learn how to identify what is a cultural component from what is something unappropriate
- Are told about strategies for overcoming challenges (see bibliography for some ideas)
- Try to be creative and adopt different perspectives
Resilience is, as we see, an essential tool that all students should have, regardless they are travelling abroad or not. It will help them accept differences, take things under a new perspective, learn from their mistakes and, what is more important, learn about themselves. Apart from some undesired dramatic circumstances that they can go through while abroad, most of their problems are not that huge, and we have to help them overcome them and move on so their experience in a foreign culture is a learning and enriching adventure.
Ai-Girl Tan (Ed.) (2013) Creativity, Talent and Excellence. Springer
Bennett, J. 1998. Transition shock: Putting culture shock in perspective. In Basic concepts of intercultural communication, ed. M. Bennett, 215-224. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press
Pritscher, C. (Ed.) (2013) Learning What to Ignore . SensePublishers
Shah, M. & Whiteford, G., (Eds.) (2017)Bridges, pathways and transitions [Recurso electrónico] : international innovations in widening participation / edited by Chandos Publishing | 2017
Southwick , S. & Charney, D. (2012) Resilience : the science of mastering life’s greatest challenges. Cambridge University Press
Webb, Liggu (2013) Resilience : How to Cope When Everything Around You Keeps Changing. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.