Archive | World Stories

Reverse culture shock

Written by: Heather Cox, Contributing Writer

If you pass Ali Dunn (jr) on campus, don’t be surprised if she avoids eye contact with you.

At least at first.

It’s not that Dunn is anti-social. Instead, she’s just heeding the customs of Aix-en-Provence, France, where she recently studied abroad for a semester—and where direct eye contact is viewed as verboten.

“As an American, if I made eye contact with an older woman on the street, she became offended, because I entered into her ‘personal space,’” recalled Dunn, who spent more than four months last summer in the southern part of France studying French. “I still catch myself not looking or smiling at anyone because I have become accustomed to the French way of life.”


Ali Dunn spent a semester studying in France, and she has now noticed a difference in herself since coming back to school.

Dunn is among a growing number of Indiana Wesleyan University students who are taking their education outside of the traditional campus to study abroad, whether that’s on a short-term trip with Dr. Michael Buck to Scotland and England or a longer trip such as Dunn’s.

In the fall of 2011, just three students studied abroad. This fall, 16 students participated in semester affiliate programs, according to Sandra J. Emmett, IWU’s education abroad supervisor. This is more than 400 percent increase.

“We average about 12 [students] per semester now, where we used to average about three to five,” Emmett said.

But when those students return, they often struggle with what some call “reverse cultural shock.”

In other words, they need to make a lot of readjustments when returning to campus.

Amy Foster (sr) traveled to Orvieto, Italy, with Gordon IN Orvieto program during the 2013 fall semester. Foster took part in studying abroad to learn, explore, and live quietly for a semester.

“Coming back to campus was really, really hard,” Foster says. “The general culture of IWU felt very fake when I first came back.”

Before she left to study abroad, Foster thought the IWU culture was “the real deal.” It was hard for her when she returned, because everything then seemed fake. However, since this initial feeling after returning to campus, she is now able to distinguish the difference between genuine faith, and “fake faith.”

“Sometimes its easy to mistake a habit born of Christian phrases, music, and college culture as people being fake. What’s really happening is that they are following their own sort of liturgy,” Foster said. “What matters is whether or not they are acting in an intentional, God-fearing way or not.”

Katherine Fitch (sr), who traveled to Seville, Spain, explained, “I really struggled with sticking to a strict schedule and can’t casually show up thirty minutes late and everyone being okay with that.”

Not only is it hard for the students to readjust to life on campus, but they also have to deal with being “homesick” for their new “home.”

Dunn recalled her peaceful morning walks to school with views of the vendors setting up their fruit and vegetable stands for the day, and taking a daily newspaper from men who would pass them out on the streets.


Katherine Fitch, who studied in Spain, had a hard time adjusting back to her strict schedule at school.

“My host family became my home away from home,” Dunn also said. “Leaving them was probably the most painful part.”

Foster added, “your definition of home is stretched across an ocean.”

It was also hard for the students because their friends and family couldn’t relate to their stories and experience on a deeper level.

Allison Manwell (jr), who also traveled to Seville, Spain, said even though she has friends and family who have been on missions trips in foreign countries, there is still something different about actually living in a foreign country.

Students have also expressed a frustration in the fact that there’s not a lot of help to readjust to campus life when they return. They said they almost feel like they were thrown back into their old life with no advice or warning as to how difficult it would be.

In regard to this returning “culture shock,” Emmett advises students to take advantage of the new requirements for students to participate in before they depart, including the Introduction to Cross-Cultural Engagement course and the Intercultural Effectiveness Scale assessment tool and coaching review.

There are also books, tools and resources in the Global Engagement Office to inform students of pre-departure and post-return information to assist them in preparation beforehand as well as processing and adjusting afterward.


Amy Foster had a hard time adjusting to the “IWU Culture” when she returned from Italy.

There was also a “Welcome Back!” event held November 18 for those who studied abroad recently to assist them with reflecting back on their experiences, as well as participate in  workshops teaching them how to build a resume and how to use these experiences post-graduation.

Emmett’s personal advice for returning students? Stop by the Global Engagement Office or contact the Center for Student Success.

“We can provide lots of tips and ideas on how to use and process your experience,” she said.

For Foster, it was a conversation with a professor that best helped her navigate her return home.

“Nobody told me how hard it would be,” Foster said. “What finally broke through was when my advisor, Professor Ron Mazellan, told me that it was okay to mourn a place. Allowing myself to be sad helped me to heal.”

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IWU raising money for Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone

With countless individuals sick and dying, the severity of the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone has caused The Wesleyan Church to take action.

General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church and founder of the Christian humanitarian program World Hope, Dr. JoAnne Lyon, has reached out to Indiana Wesleyan University in order to raise funds for a project named “IWU Cares.”

The project’s goal is to raise $30,000—enough money to purchase an ambulance for Kamakwie Hospital in Sierra Leone.

Kamakwie Wesleyan Hospital is one of the few hospitals in Sierra Leone the government has put in charge of the Ebola situation. It only has two ambulances to transport the sick and remove the deceased Ebola victims all across Sierra Leone, both of which are old and need replacing, according to Dean of the Chapel Dr. Jim Lo.

The situation has become so intense that the hospital has began to ask workers to use their own private vehicle to transport victims of Ebola.

Lo believes IWU needs to be a part of this project because Christians have a responsibility for other believers who are suffering.

“If we say that we have around 3,000 people that are a part of the residential community and each person gives just ten dollars, we can meet this need very, very quickly,” Lo said.

Lo has reached out to the Director of Alumni Rick Carder to consider asking alumni to give to this fundraiser as well.

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 9.52.38 AM

Dr. Jim Lo is encouraging people to donate money to buy this ambulance to help those stricken with Ebola in Sierra Leone.

“We are talking about people helping people,” Carder said in an email interview with The Sojourn. “Through the community here at IWU, we believe that each one of us can do something and by combining those gifts we can accomplish so much.”

Lo recognizes not everyone is able to give large amounts of money for causes such as this, but encourages everyone to give by prayer.

“We [IWU] talk a lot about being world changers, and I recognize that not everyone can get out into the world to be the world changers that way, but one of the ways that we can bless other people in the world that are in need is by giving,” Lo said.

An offering for this project will be taken during chapel once a week starting Friday, Nov. 14 until the end of the semester. Student leaders will also be walking through the dorms to raise additional funds.

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Ebola: Take a chill pill

There is one topic everyone is talking about since the beginning of the school year: Ebola. It seems to be what anyone is talking about now: on the news, in the classroom, with friends at lunch. But what exactly is it and what should you know?

 First identified in 1976 in Africa, Ebola hemorrhagic fever is a disease caused by one of five different Ebola viruses. Four of the strains can cause severe illness in humans and animals while the fifth causes illness in some animals but not humans, according to a CNN article.

The disease first came to the United States in September from a man who traveled from Liberia to Dallas, TX. He is the only man who has died in the U.S. from that disease.

 Symptoms of Ebola include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and unexplained hemorrhage. The disease can appear anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure. It spreads through direct contact with blood or body fluids, objects such as needles and syringes and infected apes and monkeys, according to the CDC.

World Ebola Map

The areas shaded in orange represent the countries with confirmed Ebola cases. Graphic courtesy of Kelly Reed.

 If students worry about contracting Ebola, keep in mind: only one person has died from this disease in the U.S., as opposed to a yearly average of 23,607 deaths from 1976-2007 of influenza.

An article on says the only way to get the disease is if one touches the saliva, blood, urine or feces of someone who has the disease.

 “The risk of Ebola to students at IWU is so close to zero, I would say it is zero,” Dr. Philip Renfroe, assistant professor of health sciences and physician at the health center, said.

 “Don’t panic,” Denise Brehmer, assistant professor of nursing, said. “If anyone is exhibiting what they think might be [Ebola], they need to go get checked out further.”

 Though it’s rare students will contract Ebola, they can use this as a reminder to stay healthy so they don’t contract other sicknesses that are more common this upcoming winter.

 “One basic rule … if you have a fever, stay [in your dorm room],” Renfroe said. “Don’t [go out] for the sake of other students. [You] should seek medical attention.”

 Renfroe challenged students not to fear this outbreak but to pray for the ones who are sick.

 “I think because of IWU’s unique commitment to being a faith-based community, this is an opportunity for us to engage in significant prayer,” Renfroe said. “We can read in the Bible when there have been times where plagues have struck humanity. In the midst of those plagues, its been the role of the church to be the means of providing compassionate humanitarian care.”

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Is studying abroad really that expensive?

Wendy Brown (jr), center, travelled to Italy for a study abroad program, paying slightly more than a regular semester at IWU.

Wendy Brown (jr), center, travelled to Italy for a study abroad program, paying slightly more than a regular semester at IWU.

Photography major Wendy Brown (jr) had a life-changing experience in Orvieto, Italy, last spring, studying art at a Gordon College facility and raking up 18 credits in the process, all of which counted toward her Indiana Wesleyan University degree.

Brown paid about $1,000 more than a semester’s tuition at IWU–a cost that was more manageable thanks to an outside scholarship she received. Even without the scholarship, she said she would have paid it all.

“That experience is worth every penny,” Brown said. “I would have paid $4,000 [more than IWU tuition]. I didn’t have to, but I would have, looking back. I think it’s invaluable, the experience you have.”

Contrary to what many students may think, the cost of study abroad programs is not much more than a semester at IWU, Education Abroad Supervisor Sandy Emmett said. According to Emmett, costs aren’t the problem concerning students as much as a lack of financial aid.

“Everybody needs to be on the same page when they’re talking [about studying abroad],” Emmett said. “It doesn’t cost more. … It’s just more out of pocket for the students.”

The average semester study abroad program costs about $16,000-16,500, Emmett said. This year, a semester at IWU, including room and board, is $15,907.

Since students receive IWU credit for courses they take abroad, they are charged at least full tuition at IWU, which currently stands at $12,051 per semester. Students also pay the remainder of a program’s tuition cost (if it exceeds IWU’s) as well as the program’s room and board and additional fees.

Students also pay a $50 IWU Global Engagement fee, which covers pre-orientation and application processing fees.

The cheapest semester abroad trip is the Uganda Studies Program at about $14,601. The most expensive trip is the Los Angeles term at Azusa Pacific University, totalling at about $20,823.

IWU carries over federal and state financial aid into these study abroad programs, Emmett said, but the same doesn’t quite go for institutional aid.

Students who have been approved and accepted into a study abroad program can apply for the IWU Global Studies Grant, a pool of funds the Board of Trustees has set aside for education abroad programs, Emmett said. This fund is distributed among students in fall, spring and beginning this year, May and summer programs.

“I would love to give every student the same amount that they would get here. That would be wonderful,” Emmett said. “We just don’t have that amount available to us.”

Brown received about half the amount of her academic scholarships, which were not too large to begin with, she said. To compensate, she applied for about 15 outside study abroad scholarships and received one or two.

Director of Financial Aid David Solms said when IWU hands out academic scholarships, it is actually just “discounting” the price of tuition for students who bring academic merit to campus.

“When a student chooses to go and study at another institution for the semester, we are not in the business of discounting [those costs],” Solms said, “but the institution does want to be able to help students.”

This led to the creation of the Global Studies Grant. As more students study abroad, however, the funds are more thinly distributed among students. Solms said he is “hopeful” that as more students express an interest in education abroad, there will be more resources available.

According to Emmett, the number of students studying abroad for a semester has grown, jumping from three in fall 2011 to 16 in fall 2014.

Director of Global Studies, Dr. Jim Vermilya, outlined two proposals the Global Studies Committee has worked on to address students’ financial challenges with education abroad.

The first proposal, recently approved, extended the IWU World Changers Scholarship and Global Studies Grant to May and summer IWU-run programs, Vermilya said via email to The Sojourn. These were previously available to semester trips only.

A second proposal is now in the works that would request tuition costs for IWU-run travel classes and abroad programs cross over into some in-country expenses for the class. This, in turn, would decrease travel costs for students.

According to Vermilya, the proposal “has been received positively” and “is currently under review.” He expects an answer by the end of the semester.

“The ultimate hope is that … more students will have an option of doing education abroad,” Emmett said. “In the long-term look, this is going to open up education abroad to a lot more students.”

Until then, the Global Studies office continues to give students a list of resources on how to receive outside financial aid.

When preparing for a semester abroad, Brown said “you really do have to think through every little thing.” One must consider passport payments, visa payments and additional costs surrounding those.

“It is intimidating at first, but when you really get down … and look at your options, it’s … actually very doable,” Brown said. “Don’t write it off right away.”

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