As we say good-bye to parting seniors, we sometimes wonder what is ahead for those students as they return to their passport countries—some to start college/university, some to work. I contacted several such students after they had been in the U.S. for a year and asked them the questions you will find below. I was amazed at the depth of insight the answers showed, as I’m sure you will be too.

What were the two or three biggest adjustments you had upon your arrival in the US?

CR: Adjusting my view of Americans. Deciding that different isn’t worse, it’s just different. Finding commonality among people in order to make new friends. Going from being well known and having lots to do to being hardly known and having lots of free time.

TK: I had to adjust to the mixed feeling of independence/dependence. I always assumed that going to college would make me a free woman, but the truth is, I live with people who are not my parents, and I cannot afford my own car. Thus, I have to ask to be driven everywhere, and I find it makes me feel more like a child than I ever have before. At the same time, I worry about my own life now and do not see or talk to my family for months at a time.

LT: The changes in my friends… getting over how much STUFF there was here and learning not to get caught up in it…the way friendships are different here.

SG: Missing aspects of home (rain on the tin roof, going barefoot, sunshine). People have always said that the first semester is the hardest, and when you make it through, that it’s smooth sailing. For me, the second semester was much worse than the first, and I wondered if there was something wrong with me.

JR: Church in English, and not being the visiting ministry family. It was strange not to be in front and not having everyone asking me all sorts of questions.

PS: Seeing so many people with apparently disposable income. Managing a bank account and checkbook.

Did those adjustments change/get better/get harder when you entered school/started work?

JR: I didn’t notice them until I was at school and settled in. Things started to get better as my friends understood me better.

LT: Yes, I’m much more used to everything now—it has strengthened my dependence on God. Now I trust Him more, so it’s a lot easier to take things in stride even though there are still challenges.

TK: I would say they got better because my school caters to international and MK students and thus, the people there are perhaps more aware of the world than many people I meet day to day outside of my college.

What do you wish you would have been better prepared for?

CR: I wish that I had known more financial information. What costs to expect (such as car insurance) and where to go to get my needs met. I wish I had a better understanding of where my money can go.

LJT: …living on my own.

LT: …digging for financial aid!!! But some things you just can’t do overseas.

What do you appreciate about the education you got overseas?

CR: It was more personal. I knew my teachers and almost everyone in the whole school. The multicultural aspect was very nice in broadening my mind.

LJT: …I learned to be open minded to other cultures…variety… experience…great teachers that cared about me as a person and were role models.

SG: I’ve been exposed to a huge variety of people from different cultures and how Christianity affects their lives differently, and I really appreciate that foundation.

TK: It [Rossyln Academy] was hard! I had a better GPA this year than I ever had at Rosslyn, and I felt I knew how to properly think, write, and study. Also, my teachers in high school were wonderful, personal, and godly.

LT: The teachers! The way it was challenging—everything about school work is so much easier now that I’ve been through that!

What one piece of advice would you give to someone graduating from high school this year?

CR: Keep an open mind and love people. It’s the second greatest commandment. You can’t come into another culture and expect it to understand you, but you can love the people that make up that culture. If you do that, you will be happy wherever you go.

LJT: If you don’t think you’re ready to go hard core into school again, take a year off—enjoy your family (it may be your last chance to).

SG: Value your relationship with God above everything else!!! Your family will let you down because they have no choice but to leave you, your new friends will let you down because they won’t always understand you, your professors will seem like they don’t care because they don’t have personal relationships with their students like overseas teachers of small schools do, and your old friends will not be there for you like old times either. Only God is there for you consistently, and only God is capable of being ultimately faithful—He will not let you down.

JR: See life as an adventure, expect things to not be like you think they will be.

TK: You are so blessed to have led the life you did. Use your extra knowledge, amazing experiences, and full life to be a better person as well as to change the world.

LT: Have confidence in the fact that you are handmade—made to order—by God. Don’t be afraid to reach out, even if someone blows you off (which they will). It’s not the end of the world—it’s more their problem than yours.

PS: When people ask you where you are from, tell them the country where you grew up.

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