How You Can Reduce the Effects of Culture Shock
Studying Abroad can be one of the most empowering, exciting, and fulfilling experiences you can do for yourself as a student. It will not only give you a chance to learn about the dynamics of a new culture, but it will also help you build independent skills and self-growth. When I studied abroad in Sweden two years ago, the experience helped me grow into a an adventurous and daring young adult and gave me a chance to reflect on who I was as an individual.
Though the epic stories exchanged between peers may sound exciting and enthralling, it is important to be prepared for what awaits you on the other side of the sea or continent. Sometimes when students study abroad or take a vacation in a foreign country they grow overwhelmed and unsettled by their new surroundings and customs. This is what's called culture shock.
Culture shock can make students in foreign countries often feel disoriented, ostracized and at times homesick. For example, when I was in Sweden I met a boy who was a foreign exchange student from Croatia who explained to me, "I am not use to having so much freedom of speech." Compared to Sweden, which is a democracy like the United States, Croatia was Communist nation. "How will I ever be able to readjust to living back home?" he added referring to the effects of reverse culture shock which has similar effects on study abroad students when they return home as they did when they left.
Culture Shock is definitely anxiety driven, but do not let it ruin you chances for having the experience of a life time. Here are some preparatory tips you can follow, that I have learned, to reduce the negative effects of culture shock and enjoy your study abroad experience:
1) Research the country of your interest (i.e. food, traditions, religion, history, languages, music, politics, sports, and social dynamics, problems, architecture, and landscapes). You can do this either on your own time or integrate it into a school assignment. Either way it will help prepare you for what you will be entering.
2) Keep an open mind. Remember that you are in an environment different from your home so people may behave and perceive things differently. Instead of shying away from something that is "foreign" to you, ask questions about it. Embrace your mistakes so you can profit from them. Exercise patience and acceptance. Use it to richen your cultural learning experience.
3) Research via Tripadvisor some fun things to do while you are visiting the country of your choice. Doing this can build on more excitement and reduce the impact of fear. If you don't know where to start, then browse the top recommended choices and build from there.
4) Get socially involved. Check out the different social and activity organizations offered at the school that you are interested in studying abroad at. When students have common interests, they unite quicker and stick together. Check and see if there are cultural groups, international student organizations, or groups that just make you plain old excited!
5) Reach out to other foreign exchange students. They may be feeling just as lost and alone as you do. Who knows you might make a friend.
Photo credit: www.chinadaily.com