How to talk to us post BayUP

We have finished our time at our sites, and are starting debrief tomorrow. Here is a document our director prepared to help friends and family know how to interact with people after BayUP:

Dear Friend/Family of a BayUPer,

Thanks so much for partnering with your friend as they participated in BayUP this summer.

I wanted to offer some suggestions to you to help your friend transition back to their lives at
home and school. You may be surprised to know that the transition home is often harder than
the transition to the new culture of the city. This is because students often come back and
have trouble communicating what they learned and experienced. Sometimes they have a hard
time finding people to listen to their stories. Sometimes they are overwhelmed by the relative
material wealth they return to their lives compared to the poverty that they saw in the middle of
Oakland.

As their friend, it is good for you to be aware that the transition home can at times be difficult.
This can help you set appropriate expectations for your friendship in the first few months after
they have returned home. And there are some ways that you can help your friend make the
transition back home:

1. Talk to your friend before they return. What would they like their first week to be like
when they get home (they may not know for sure, but talking about it doesn’t hurt!).

2. If you are picking them up from the project, remember that they are coming off of an
intense summer emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. THEY ARE TIRED.
They may not be up for an immediate welcome home party, or all the relatives to
descend on the house, or dinner out. Most likely they will want a shower and some
sleep. Ask them what they would prefer. They will appreciate your warm welcome.

3. If you are not meeting them at the airport or picking them up, a card waiting for them at
home or a phone call the day after their return is a great way to let them know you are
glad they are home.

4. The thing your friend will most need from you is your listening ear! They want
to tell the story of their summer, but often find it hard to know where to begin. The
question “How was your summer?” can be hard to answer because it is such a broad
question. Asking LOTS of specific questions is the best way to find out what the
summer was like. Here are some examples:

  • What was a typical day like?
  • What was your favorite thing about your summer experience?
  • What was the hardest thing about your summer experience?
  • What was the thing that was most interesting to you about the culture you were in?
  • What is different about how people relate to each other here compared to the culture you were in this summer?
  • What was the funniest or most embarrassing thing that happened to you.
  • What was the food like? What did you enjoy? Dislike?
  • What was your team like? Who were the people you were closest too?
  • How were your expectations about your summer met or not met?
  • What did you learn about yourself? About others? About God?
  •  What are some ways you want to apply what you learned now that you are home?
  •  How does it feel to be home? What did you most miss about home?
  • What do you miss about your summer culture now that you are home?

5. You don’t have to ask all these questions at once! Consider having a couple of
extended times (at least) with your friend where you ask questions about the summer.
Maybe once shortly after their return, then again when the pictures are developed (if
they are not already on a digital camera!)

6. Periodically ask how they are thinking and feeling about their summer and how they are
applying what they have learned throughout the fall semester.

7. Some other fun things you could consider:

If your friend learned to prepare any traditional food from their summer culture,
have a night where they make dinner (or at least one dish!) for you.
Look through whatever souvenirs your friend returned with and ask questions
about them: were they given as a gift? by whom? what was that relationship
like? If it wasn’t’ a gift, what prompted them to buy this particular souvenir?
Invite other friends of yours and your BAyUP friend to hear about the summer.
Consider hosting a little dessert and let your friend tell his or her story and show
some pictures to a group of people.

8. It is ok to remind your friend that you had a summer too! Life in your world did not stop
just because they were on a summer project. Tell them about your summer . . .

9. Your friend may seem weird or respond to situations differently than they did before
they left. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the changes you notice. Let them
know you want to care for them while at the same time giving them the freedom to
change and grow.

1. Help them to re-engage with their friends on campus and their responsibilities in classes
and with InterVarsity by helping them brainstorm ways to integrate their summer
experience into what they are doing now.

10. Most of all, continue to pray for and with your friend. Encourage them to take time for
reflection and to be with Jesus.

The most important thing is just to be patient and ask a lot of questions. Returning home is
often as much a part of the growth process as the summer at BAyUP. I believe the Lord is
using all of these experiences to make your friend more like Him. Thanks again for blessing
your BAyUP friend with your prayers, support and encouragement. May you also be blessed.

Sincerely,

Yu-Shuan Tarango-Sho
BayUP Director

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