A few weeks ago, I came back from Dublin, Ireland after studying abroad there for three months. While taking classes, I also worked in the Irish Parliament. Needless to say, I definitely had a life-changing experience. Surprisingly, it’s been easy to readjust to daily life at the Writing Center. Resuming my work revealed how much my tutoring skill has improved. I thought I would be rusty, but it came back to me naturally. It was quite invigorating.
From this experience, I feel I’m better equipped to help international students studying at DePaul. By being in a foreign country for three months, I have a stronger understanding of how they might be feeling. When I arrived, I felt both vulnerable and excited. I was ecstatic to live outside the U.S. However, I didn’t know anyone, I was living in a strange home, and I wanted to travel, but not alone. I was desperate to find someone in my group of 20 students to travel with, not unlike everyone else. There was a scramble to ‘claim’ people, and cliques formed within the first week.
Most international students likely feel this same sense of vulnerability. I wasn’t immersed in a foreign language, but I still understand how lonely studying abroad can be, especially if it’s your first time. Inevitably, you’ll probably feel homesick like I did. Meeting lots of new people can’t replace the meaningful relationships you have back at home.
However, this is where the tutor comes in. UCWbL tutors can help international students get more acclimated to American culture (cause it’s soooo different) and provide a space for them to practice their English if they’re learning the language. For me, I want them to know that we’ve got their backs. I’ve been there.
Studying abroad definitely served as a reminder for how I approach international students in Writing Center appointments. The key is to be patient, encouraging, and friendly. Being in a foreign country, let alone learning a new language, can be frustrating. Even if you have an appointment that is talking-heavy on the tutor’s side (it happens sometimes), it’s important to make sure they are still engaged. They want to know that they’re being listened to and that we are there to help. them.