On her very first day in the United States, Wendy, 22, my psychology summer intern from London, was at Cambria Suites in Traverse City listening to pianist Michael Coonrod and a string quintet.
“The opening piece they performed sounded exactly how I felt,” she said. “It was my first classical music concert. I sensed someone understood where I’d come from and where I’d come to. I was feeling lost, sad and afraid. I was even angry with myself for thinking I could come to the U.S. without my partner, an aviation guest student at NMC. His visa wasn’t ready by the time of my departure. Everything seemed alien and unfamiliar — the food, money, time, weather and even the language. By connecting deeply with the performance, it made me want to give northern Michigan a chance.”
As part of my preparation for Wendy’s arrival, I’d been engaged in anticipatory guidance. Anticipatory guidance is the psychological preparation of a person to help relieve the fear and anxiety of an event expected to be stressful. I’ve lived abroad and known the disorientation, ambiguity and need for self-soothing that she described. I had a hunch that music might soften her landing.
Now that she’s at week three, she’s done plenty of reading, research, traditional assignments and shadowed me everywhere. She’s toured many non-profit agencies and facilities, watched court proceedings, attended and given public comment at environmental/political/community/educational meetings and conferences and met candidates running for office. Her key areas of interest are forensic psychology and criminal rehabilitation.
As part of her daily experience, she’s journaled and created a photo psychological map. At the end of each day, we’ve debriefed about her experience. She’s not used to people staring at her because she’s a woman of color and not understanding her speech because of her accent. Nonetheless, she’s found people in northern Michigan very friendly and generous. She’s marveled at our volunteerism spirit, fundraising for causes and willingness to advocate for what we want. She says she doesn’t see this as much in England.