DIPA provides literature and programs to ease the cultural transitions. Staff members accompany every group of students during their international flights. Buschman recalls accompanying one group of students to Harare. "We hadn't even left the airport when a student announced, 'I'm going to stay here the rest of my life.' She came back at the end of the semester, of course, but the impact can be dramatic. Many students find they want to return to the place where they studied abroad as soon as they can. It becomes such a vivid experience for them."|
College of Arts and Sciences professor Gary Radke '73 was one of those students. Radke was a fine arts major when he traveled to Florence with DIPA in 1972. "I went to Florence in my junior year, and it was a pretty big deal for me. I had never even been on a plane before," he says.
Once there, Radke was anything but homesick. "It was the longest and richest three-and-a-half months of my life," he says. "And when I talk to undergraduates now who go abroad, it's still the same. Time is transformed. To this day, I have the impression that I lived in Italy for a long time."
Today, Radke leads a summer seminar for undergraduate students and heads a graduate program in Renaissance art in Florence. "Students get to the end of a summer session and say, 'The time went by so quickly!' That's because every minute you are learning something new," Radke says.
Students studying in Italy, Spain, Zimbabwe, and France usually live with host families. "Some of the most positive feedback we get is about the host stay," Shane says. "Some of these relationships continue for a lifetime."
Strickland established a bond with the son of her Italian host family through a shared love of art. "My most precious memory of Italy is the first time my host brother came to the studio to paint with me," she says. "It was a touching moment because his mother told me he hadn't painted for five yearssince his father's death. She felt I inspired him."
In some cases, students have a harder time adjusting to the return home. "The most difficult part about coming home was that I didn't want to leave," Gurian says. "Even after being in Europe for more than eight months, I still wasn't ready to come home. When I got back, I initially had a hard time adjusting."
Gurian's reaction is not unusual. It takes time for students to balance the fresh lessons of a new experience with the conditioning of their own culture. Buschman says reverse culture shock is sometimes even more debilitating because many students don't expect it. For that reason, DIPA offers assistance to students as they return home and get back into the swing of campus life.
Many students also find comfort in getting together with other DIPA participants and swapping adventure stories. "When you travel to a foreign country, you know life there is going to be different," Buschman says. "You don't know what to expect, but you can mentally prepare for the changes. When you come back, you don't think anything will be different, but it usually is. Your friends and family may have changed. And more than anything, you have changed."