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ACA Spring Leadership Conference

How to utilize your international staff most effectively and handle the effects of culture shock.

Angela Manginelli

on 24 June 2012

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Transcript of ACA Spring Leadership Conference

Where do we go from here? Culture Shock Stereotypes... Myth vs. Reality The realITIES Most international staff will only be at your camp for 9-14 weeks. For many, this is their first interaction with America and perhaps, with Americans. Most will not have much contact with their families for the time their overseas (in the US). The individuals are between 18 and 25 years old. For many, English is their second language and it can be difficult to feel as if you've lost your voice and the ability to express yourself as well as you can back home. If you create community beforehand, issues will be stopped before they even have a chance to start. All staff need to acclimate
(not just the international staff) ...even Camp Directors. Tools ACA Best Practices


Sense of humor

Put yourself in their shoes

Ask for help

Form a network with other camp directors

Utilize your provider! Up to 90% of the common issues reported by Camps that work with International Staff can be prevented! These days, very few camps have only one or two international staff. Points to Ponder what dId you just say? How are you? (Americans don't often wait for an answer...it's a throw away phrase in our culture) Close talking & personal space Handshake? Kiss kiss? Sarcasm For some everything is different...

Big city to small town, middle of desert, island, forest, etc

Currency (US is the only country with no number on the coins and the sizes don't match the value)

None of their favorite foods, or if they are the "same," they are still different

Temperature in the US compared to back home

Lack of technology! (Imagine not having your phone or email for 10 weeks)

Tipping...explain what is customary in the US as tipping is not the same everywhere in the world

The US is different from home country...even if they speak English as a first language. The phases:
Honeymoon (enchantment, euphoria, fascination and enthusiasm)

The Crisis (frustration, anxiety, anger)

The Recovery (crisis resolution and culture learning)

Adjustment (reflecting enjoyment and functional competence)

"I'll have to think about it..." "See you later..." "Wassup?" Slang, idioms and buzz words... Cultural norms (US vs. everywhere else) Although our top concern is for the campers, we have to make sure all staff are trained and taken care of...so they can take care of the campers. It's the LIttle ThIngs... Working with international staff does not require you to re-invent the wheel, but there are little things you can do to embrace the different cultures, such as:

Start a "buddy" program that pairs up seasoned veterans with new international staff

Collect a favorite dish from each staff member and have the chef adapt it to meet needs of feeding a small army. On the night when their dish is served, allow the staff member to talk about it and why it's their favorite.

Ask how their doing from time to time and actually listen to the answer.

Have an open door policy for staff so that they know they can approach you if they have an issue, concern or question.

If you have returning international staff have them take a leadership role and serve as a mentor to new international staff.

Clearly state your camp's policy on relationships, drinking, smoking, etc.

Purposely split up the international staff so they are "forced" (encouraged) to make friends with people outside of their own country. The tendency is to go with what is familiar, even if they are excited and willing to learn, work, etc.

Ask the staff what they would like to share about their culture (if possible before camp starts)

Do orientations for your staff...especially the international staff

Whenever possible, have the international staff fly in a day before the orientation session(s) so they can get over the effects of jet-lag before learning.

Have a map of the world up in your dining hall. Put pins on the map of the places where your staff is from (domestic and international)

On that same map you can have the campers put pins in a place they would like to visit

Educate your staff on what you camp's culture is (before they arrive)

Clearly state what the job expectations are (they should be the same for domestic and international staff)

Have a meeting during your staff orientation where you set staff-wide goals so everyone is on the same page and gets to help set the goals

Other ideas? What do you do at your camp?
Remind yourself that this is just another amazing way that camp shows people how diverse our world is, but that we all have common threads. Who here has studied/lived abroad?

Who has vacationed abroad?

Have you worked with international staff at your camp before?

Why did you decide to hire international staff?

What are some difficulties you expect to have?

What's your biggest fear/concern in working with international staff? Who are we? Naive realism...the belief that everyone sees the world the same way you do. Ways to lessen the effects of culture shock on your international staff
A toolbox of resources to use when training your international staff
Methods for most effectively utilizing and uniting your international and domestic staff ObjectIves You’ve made the decision to hire international staffso now what? This session will cover ways to effectively utilize and integrate international staff at your camp. Attendees will leave the session with an orientation toolbox to use at camp as well as proven ways to help prevent and combat the effects of culture shock. SessION DESCRIPTION “Culture is a little like dropping an Alka-Seltzer into a glass...you don't see it, but somehow it does something.”

~ Hans Magnus Enzensberger Culture shock is an extreme response to an international transition.

It's a universal truth as everyone has experienced culture shock at some point...even if you've never left the country. (Small town vs. big city, Different regions of the US, So-Cal vs Nor-Cal)

It will occur.

It's normal.

It's not a bad thing.

It happens in phases and people can bounce between and back to phases.

It takes time to adjust. On average, 3 to 4 months is the amount of time needed to "deal with" culture shock.

It's an ongoing, dynamic experience and is different for every person.

Any change is intrinsically stressful, event if the event is a positive or desired one (such as camp)

"The challenge is to understand and manage contact between culturally diverse people and groups in order to reduce the stress and difficulties that are a normal aspect of such encounters, as well as enhance the positive effects that cross-cultural encounters can have on the participants." Perceptions of Americans and our way of life Common symptoms of culture shock:
Extreme homesickness

Feelings of helplessness/dependency

Disorientation and isolation

Depression and sadness

Hyper-irritability, may include inappropriate anger and hostility

Sleep and eating disturbances (too little or too much)

Excessive critical reactions to host culture/stereotyping


Excessive drinking

Recreational drug dependency

Extreme concerns over sanitation, safety (even paranoia), and being taken advantage of

Loss of focus and ability to complete tasks
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