As a Host Property you may be providing a first time opportunity to experience the United States to many of our program participants. Living in a foreign country can be an exhilarating experience, filled with a range of emotion and often requires some time for adjustment to the new environment.
Culture Shock and Homesickness:
If you have ever been to another country for a period of time, you may be familiar with the feelings of culture shock or homesickness. The sudden immersion into a world where everything is so different from anything you’ve ever known can be overwhelming and result in these feelings.
The confusion and anxiety associated with culture shock and homesickness can result in moodiness, irritability, and a lack of focus. Interns may begin to feel as if even the most simple of tasks is insurmountable, longing for the familiar comforts of home. The best thing you can do for an intern suffering from these conditions is to be very patient; they will pass. These feelings of culture shock and homesickness are usually a temporary phase and generally only last for a few weeks before the intern gains a sense of confidence and adjust to their new surroundings.
To proactively help your intern work through these feelings, start a polite conversation about their life back home. Getting your intern to discuss culture shock and homesickness will help them to recognize the feelings they are experiencing. Once they realize what is happening, the fear and anxiety should subside, and they can begin to enjoy discovering the similarities and differences between life in the U.S. and what they have experienced back home.
Help to cure homesickness by:
- Hosting a social event such as a potluck featuring the participant’s local cuisine or a holiday party celebrating either U.S. or international holidays.
- Put their pictures with a little biography about them and their country in the associate cafeteria.
- Start a “Buddy Program” with them as they come in. This can be their Dept. Head, a Supervisor or another co-worker that will assist them since their time of arrival with finding housing, information on the Social Security office, area information, etc.
Trainees/Interns are required to speak, read, and understand English however there will be times when communication between you and your participants will be a challenge.
Here are some things to consider when communicating with your intern throughout the program:
- When your intern first arrive, they are usually a little overwhelmed and their English skills may be a little stiff as they don’t speak the language on a daily basis at home.
- Communicating in a foreign language all day long can be very tiring. Interns may be afraid to tell you that they don’t understand what you are saying, or they may assume they understand even if they really don’t. One can imagine the problems that may occur under these circumstances.
- With a little patience and time to get accustomed to their new surroundings you will find that their English skills will improve very rapidly.
Matters of Trust:
Some of our interns come from countries where authority figures are generally not to be trusted and it may be difficult to get your participants to come to you if they have a problem. They may feel that as an authority figure you do not have a genuine interest in helping them to have a successful and positive program experience. Gain their trust by making yourself available as someone who is sincerely interested in facilitating a positive environment.
The purpose of the International Trainee/Intern program is to provide a learning experience for the associate and outstanding guest service for your hotel. It is imperative that these associates are used in high guest contact positions and have an opportunity to learn about your business.