By Cindy Tisdall-McPhee, Chair of Counselling K–12, East Campus
As we wrap up another school year, our community inevitably begins to consider the impact of transitional stress and strategies to support our wellness. Whether we are moving to a new country, new school, new grade level; saying goodbye to friends; or have recently joined the UWCSEA community, we are all experiencing transition.
In realising that our place of safety and comfort will soon change, self-protective behaviours might kick-in to help us make this change as painless as possible. We may notice that we begin leaning away from some relationships, responsibilities and commitments. It is also common at this time to deny our feelings as another way to protect ourselves. We may do this by only focusing on the excitement of our new adventure, without giving ourselves the time to acknowledge the losses associated with change.
Transition is often associated with a sense of chaos as we work to find a new sense of belonging. This stage is often initially characterised by strong positive emotions and excitement around the new adventure. Shortly after, the realities of the new environment begin to surface. These can range from small differences within the environment and culture, to situations that cause frustration or sadness. At times we may meet these with curiosity and adaptability, while at other times we may experience feelings of ‘homesickness’ and a desire to return to where we felt a sense of belonging.
Transition can be a rollercoaster with the highs of joy and excitement, and the lows of emotional challenges. This can also be a time of vulnerability as we take risks to build new relationships and settle into our new environment. With patience, support and time, the uncertainty begins to shift into a sense of belonging once again.
In the final stage of transition, we begin to integrate into our new community. Whether it is a new class within UWCSEA, new school or whole new country, our vulnerability would support the establishment of new friendships, supports and routines. We develop strategies to cope and adapt to our new setting and as time passes we embrace and accept the differences.
The desire to support our families through the transition of leaving, saying goodbye to friends and arriving at a new place, can also add some additional transitional stress. Transition takes time and patience. As you consider the journey ahead you may take a look at ‘Transitions,’ in our Resource Section for additional tips and information.
Transitions Expat Teens Talk by Dr. Lisa Pittman and Diana Smit
The Expert Expat by Melissa Brayer Hess and Patricia Linderman
The Global Nomads Guide to University Transition by Tina L. Quick
Third Culture Kids by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken