Male and female international students with Turkey flag, books, backpacks

How to Stay Connected to Your Home Country While in the US

Staying in touch with your loved ones back home while at college in the US is crucial to the adaptation process. Here are easy ways to keep connected!

Each year, tens of thousands of international students travel great distances to the United States to attend university. During your undergraduate journey, you’ll experience new customs, food, music, people, and an educational system all at once. As the years progress, you’ll become more involved on campus in a number of activities and organizations, all with an increasingly busy class schedule. These experiences are often at once exciting and daunting, so sharing these moments with friends and family is essential to the well-being of an international student.

I was an international student once, facing the unique challenge of maintaining relationships with friends and family from the other side of the globe. Staying connected is not only vital when adjusting to a new culture, but it is also important for your eventual return home. By maintaining connections with people back home, you’ll find that you’ll avoid feeling any sense of reverse culture shock when you return to your country. Similar to culture shock, it can occur when an international student returns home and feels disconnected from their own culture after being away for years. Here are some ways these Slippery Rock University students are keeping in touch with their loved ones and dealing with the challenges they are facing.

Dealing with time zone differences

For the majority of international students, combating time zone differences is the biggest obstacle to staying connected with friends and family back home. “I try my best to keep in touch as often as I can,” says Kavinda R., a senior from Sri Lanka. “But most of my friends are scattered all over the world, which makes it tough to reach them because of the time zone differences. Nevertheless, staying connected with my family and friends from back home is extremely important.”

There never seems to be a good time to make or receive calls when you’re 10 hours ahead of everyone you know. For new international students, I recommend that once you’ve gotten into a routine and learned your schedule find a time that will work for you and your loved ones each week. This time will likely change over the years, but setting aside at least a few minutes at a consistent time will help to avoid accidentally waking up your parents at 3:00 am—save those calls for emergencies. Use additional clock settings on your phone or computer to keep track of time in your home country as well as on campus.

Related: Culture Shock

Taking it back to snail mail

Yes, there are still people out there who love handwritten letters or postcards. Although they are few and far between, these individuals tend to be students with family or friends in parts of the world that don’t have easy access to the Internet, or where it’s not reliable. When I asked international students if they use the postal service, I was surprised that a third said they still write letters and send postcards to their loved ones. While international mail may take a few weeks to arrive, there is definitely something special and very personal about someone you care for taking the time to write you by hand.

Video calling and social media

Even with a few dropped video calls, nearly all international students use Facetime, Facebook Messenger, or some other kind of video chatting app to communicate with friends and family from all over the world. “With the advances in technology today, I believe that staying connected with people from all over the world is no problem at all. It is faster and more convenient than ever,” says Beata R., a senior from Poland

And if video chatting isn’t your thing, staying connected in today’s age is easier than ever. Everyone is either on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, or something else. International students can use DMs, status updates, and photo and video posts to keep families up-to-date without always having to schedule a time to talk. 

Related: Using Social Media to Connect at College

There are moments when international students feel disconnected from everyday life back home. I’ll hear them say that they feel isolated or don’t have much to talk about with friends and family since they’ve been gone for extended periods. The feeling of being out of the loop is not uncommon for international students. I often suggest students watch or read the news or browse local websites for information about events occurring at home to help spark conversations with their loved ones. Through easy access to most international newspapers and news broadcasts online, international students can use media to keep up to date on events back home. And Alex O., a junior from Nigeria, leaves you with one important reminder, “I love staying connected back home. Especially when I feel dejected or isolated, I know my family is always there to receive me.”

If, on the other hand, you’re struggling to connect to other students at school, check out these 3 Important Resources for Making Friends on a Foreign Campus.

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