The experience of heading to another country and culture affects every person. The way each person copes with their time away will be different from everyone else. Some will begin to form a new value system by seeing the living standards of others.

Relationships will be reshaped due to exposure to different cultures and people. Each person’s vision of their future will alter in some way because of what they see and experience, and many will feel disjointed from their ‘normal’ life for awhile. Debriefing aims to help people take hold of all the benefits of times like these by focusing on things that have happened and how they have effected us.

Aims of a Debriefing Program

 Journaling: Helps remember the details of the trip, allows  emotional processing of events and surprises . Assists in sharing the trip.

Pre-brief: Gives a ’snapshot’ of feelings before the trip to show the growth that has happened on return home.

De-brief: Aims to re-live the highlights and challenges of the trip with the team to allow emotions and experiences to be unpacked.

Re-Entry Stress

Can also be called “reverse culture shock”. It is closely related to the intensity of the experience away, indicated by the following:

  • How much they enjoyed living overseas;
  • Whether they feel ready to leave or return;
  • How much they integrated into society whilst overseas;
  • Whether they experienced /witnessed any traumas whilst overseas.

Re-entry stress (RES) is described like this: “After an initial couple of days of euphoria, many returned aid workers experience feelings grouped around a number of major themes. These are mainly feelings of loss, bereavement and isolation. You can feel that no one really understands what you have been through and, what’s more, most people aren’t that interested. You may feel frustrated that you just can’t seem to communicate the magnitude of the experience you have undergone – or the sense of loss that you now have.” Aid Workers Network

Tips for Parents and Carers 

Listen, listen, and listen some more.

Students will have many emotionally laden stories to tell.  The most loving response family and friends can have, is to listen until all the stories have been told (and re-told). This will not just happen in a busy family without planning or a changing of priorities for a period of time. Giving up TV viewing or computer time to talk over a coffee/tea or a ‘walk-n-talk’ can provide rich times of relationship with your student.

Expect the student to be a different person.

Global experiences change a person.  Encounters with poverty, a new culture, inability to communicate in an unknown language  and being an ethnic minority, possibly for the first time, will alter the way your student views and interacts with the world, including you and your family.  Seek to discover the changes in the student and help him/her to make adjustments to living back in Australia.  Your student may be experiencing grief at saying goodbye to people with whom they have connected. If you need to more fully understand and help your student with grief please visit and review the section on ‘Understanding Grief’

Help the student find places to share his/her story.

Encourage the returning student to speak at gatherings and help them to make contact with Youth Groups, schools  or any other groups that would be interested in hearing about their experience.

If a student does not like to speak in public, encourage him/her to invite family and friends over for small gatherings where stories and pictures from the trip can be shared.

Encourage the student to revisit the blog site and review the trip with you to help process the events they experienced. Feel welcome to contact, or encourage your student to contact, your school’s Chaplain or support staff.

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