Wednesday, December 3, 2014

transition thoughts from the office

Dear family and friends~

As many past TTS students have said, "there are only two sleeps left" until you re-unite with your daughter. She is as excited to run through those airport gates and into your arms. She is also nervous about leaving her tight knit TTS24 community, Africa, Big Blue and more. Some students understand how to balance this tight-rope walk of emotions from past experiences, but it is always a roller coaster ride to transition from one setting to another. 

I remember my shock as I prepared for my first TTS semester as a new teacher, and an experienced teacher summed up her TTS time, with the biggest smile and hug. "It was the hardest thing I ever did. I was dirty, I was tired, I was constantly moving. But, it was the most rewarding time of my life! I was constantly in awe, surrounded by amazing people, and energized to wake up everyday. Good luck, enjoy every moment and know that your life will never be the same." I didn't really know what to think of that advice, but I quickly realized how true those sentiments were and that there is no easy way to summarize a TTS semester. 

TTS24 is now preparing to face these emotions and prepare to return home. Each person is developing her response to the HUGE (and most common) question, "So, how was Africa?" Here are a few common post semester moments and ways for you to support the newest TTS alumnae!

1) She may be nervous about her first impression when she gets off of the plane. She may have already planned her "flight clothes" and is anxious about what everyone will say. Despite the fact that she is strong and beautiful as ever, she is scared to hear she is "different" somehow. The girls can be fragile to your comments, and we think parents often don’t give themselves enough credit for how much their words influence and affect their daughters. We're sure you are all very excited to see them. What we see now compared with the girls who joined us three and a half months ago is immeasurable - they are confident, proud, strong, and happy - we're sure you'll find the same.

2) It is often difficult for students to find the words to talk about their semester. It has been a very full 15 weeks with highs and lows and everything in between. The stories will come out slowly, perhaps over dinner or during a long car ride. It is a perfect chance to sit down and spend a few hours hearing about their adventures while your daughter downloads her photos. It will help if you ask specific questions – What were your Top Ten highlights of the semester? What word would you use to describe each girl or teacher? What was your favorite class? Talk about the people who influenced you during the semester. What outdoor activities did you like? Which parts of the semester were most challenging? What was the food like?  It also may be helpful for your daughter to select a compilation of her photos to create a book from the semester.

3) Everyone is very excited for their first meal, to sleep in their beds for the first time, and to see their friends and family. It is not unusual for them to struggle a bit following all of the excitement of coming home. As a group, they talked about the nuances of ending the semester and tried to prepare for the range of emotions. Students learned how to take the skills and experiences they had in southern Africa and transfer them back to their lives at home, and we've given them the tools to help make this happen. They should have very successful re-entries, and we want to help if they experience any bumps along the way. Please keep us in the loop about how she is doing throughout her transition back home, we are here to help.

4) Your daughter may return home to questions about Ebola and stigmas related to traveling in Africa during this global outbreak. While the group discussed answers to this question, you may need to help her broaden people’s understanding of the outbreak, the size of Africa and the realities of a global community. She may need to show a map to illustrate that the patient in Texas was closer to everywhere, USA than she was to the outbreak in Africa. She may talk about being a savvy traveler or about more concerning issues facing people of southern Africa such as Malaria and HIV/AIDS. As her supporter, you probably already have an Ebola answer after sending your daughter to Africa.

5) Your daughter is motivated right now. She is engaged with her surroundings and questioning the world with her critical thinking skills. She may want to seek out clubs in her school or community to pursue service work, participate in a new found sport or continue to study southern Africa. As another method to stay engaged, your daughter may enjoy reading thought provoking books from South Africa (My Traitor’s Heart or Country of My Skull), or books about inspiring people, especially women (Half the Sky or I am Malala). This October Malala was announced as the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people. At 17, not only is she in the same age range as our students, she is also the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and a role model for TTS24 for changing the world. 

Thank you for being the vicarous travelers of TTS24! Please stay in touch and let us know how the transitions go for everyone.


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