How to Deal with Culture Shock
Whether you are still in “The Honeymoon Stage” or have already gotten past that initial adoration of your new home for the semester, it is good to be prepared for the next wave of feelings when studying abroad.
Gradually, it may seem as the initial charm of your new home is diminishing. You may feel like things are “disorganized” in your new surroundings and you may become very overwhelmed with the constant adjusting and adapting you are required to do. This is known as “The Negotiation Stage.”
But fear not! I have put together a list of ten things that I did while I was abroad that helped me get comfortable with my surrounding environment and begin to understand and appreciate the differences my host country had to offer.
- Visit a local history museum. Learning as much as possible about your new environment can really make a difference in your experience. You will begin to understand different aspects of the culture and the reasoning behind the mannerisms and behaviors of locals.
- Take a local cooking class. Setting and completing fun learning goals for the semester is a great way to immerse yourself in a local culture and make friends.
- Join an organization or sports team at school. Meeting and mingling with local students can be difficult but joining a school-sponsored club or team will allow you to talk to locals with similar interests as yourself in a relaxed environment.
- Explore a random part of town. Chances are you began your experience in your new home by visiting some of the major tourist spots and attractions. A fun way to feel like a local is to just walk around or explore a lesser-known area of where you live. You may come across a hidden gem!
- Talk to a friend or peer. Sometimes, it just helps to hear from someone who has also experienced moving to a new place. It can be nice to share what you are feeling to someone who understands and can offer advice or tips.
- Keep a journal or video diary. This can help in many ways—it can serve as an outlet for your feelings, it is a wonderful record of what you did while you were abroad, and it is a great way to remember the initial honeymoon phase feelings you might have felt.
- Try to learn the local language and slang. It will help you to feel more included from right off the bat and is usually a fun and rewarding process as you begin to progress in your knowledge.
- Use one of your hobbies as a healthy distraction. If I was ever feeling homesick, I would go on a run, which is something that I have always enjoyed doing at home. Doing an activity that you are fond of while you are abroad can allow you to take a break from the overwhelming feelings and remind you of home.
- Reach out to a study abroad advisor if there are any serious issues. If you find yourself having a hard time adapting and are consequently having a negative experience do not be afraid to reach out to any of the point of contacts that were provided to you.
- Don’t give up! At times, it may feel like it is easier to just stay at home and watch Netflix than forcing yourself to leave your comfort zone. However, the more effort you make, the easier you will find it to adapt to your new surroundings.