A good way to have the participant begin to analyze their experience and think what they would like to do in the future is a Reflection Essay, or Reflective Essay. This exercise can be used on the first day or possibly the start of the second day, before discussing the issues. The essay produced should give the support counselor a good idea of the participant’s attitude, concerns, expectations and the general way the participant will respond to the counseling session. The reflection exercise helps set the tone that the participant is not an idle bystander in the counseling process. Here are the questions for the essay:
What have I learned so far? What are the main things that I'm worried about at this point? What am I most grateful for? What are my favorite things about being in the US (or specific town, city, or state)? What would I like my last week of the program to look like (describe in detail)? What can others (host family, liaison, AFS, and school) do to help me at this point? What do I believe I can do to help myself to continue and complete a successful program?
Ask the student to write an essay of about 500 words, or more if they choose, so there is reflection about each point. The length and depth of the essay will tell a lot about the student’s analytical thinking and English ability. For counseling early in the year the student may only come up with short answers, a sentence or two for each question. The intent at the start of the session is to create a positive atmosphere, not frustration. If the essay is short, it may be worthwhile to talk to the student for a deeper reflection.
Once we've created a space where the student is given a chance to express their feelings and ideas in writing and discussion, we have increased the odds of motivating that student toward improved behaviors.