Do you dream of studying abroad? Worried about experiencing culture shock? You’re not alone. Culture shock is a common experience for students pursuing studies in foreign countries.
Don’t let culture shock kill your academic and professional goals away from your home country.
While culture shock and homesickness can be debilitating, there are ways to help you adjust to your host country’s culture. With a little planning and preparation, you can have a more enjoyable study abroad experience.
Let’s explore some of the best ways to deal with culture shock when studying abroad. But before we do that, let’s start by understanding what culture shock is.
What Is Culture Shock?
Culture shock are the feelings of disorientation one experiences when they’re in an unfamiliar cultural environment.
Culture shock can cause confusion, frustration, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and homesickness. It can also lead to physical symptoms such as headaches and nausea.
When you first arrive at your country of study, differences in the local culture and yours can be more upsetting and disorienting than you’d anticipated. Be comforted that your experience is normal and adjusting to your new life will take time.
With that in mind, let’s now talk about how to make the transition period a little more bearable:
#1- Learn about the Local Culture
When you’re studying abroad, it’s important to learn about the customs and traditions of the country you’re in. Showing respect for the customs and traditions of your host country is a key part of fitting in and feeling comfortable.
For example, in some countries it’s considered rude to eat with your hands, so you’ll need to expertly eat using a fork and knife. In others, it’s customary to take your shoes off when entering someone’s home. And in some cultures, it’s considered disrespectful to show up late to a meeting or appointment.
Similarly, in some cultures it’s considered rude to make direct eye contact, while in others it’s considered disrespectful to not do so.
Research the local culture and customs. How do people greet each other? What are the common rules of etiquette? What is considered unacceptable that might be acceptable in your culture?
Learning about these types of cultural differences can help you avoid potentially awkward situations. Make sure to learn about cultural taboos or sensitivity issues to avoid potential misunderstandings or offense.
#2- Learn the Local Language
Language barrier is one of the biggest challenges that come with studying abroad. Learning the local language, therefore, is a great way to deal with culture shock. Being able to communicate with people in your host country will help make friends, enjoy local cultural events more, and equip you to understand the culture better.
There are many resources available to help you learn a new language, including online courses, apps, and books. Immersing yourself in the language will also help you pick up on the nuances and customs of the culture.
Even if you are already fluent in the local language, there may be some words and phrases that you may not be familiar with. That can be frustrating. There are some things you can do to make the transition easier.
Firstly, try to find a language partner or tutor. This is someone who can help you practice the language and learn new words and phrases. There are often language exchange programs offered by universities or local organizations.
Secondly, make an effort to immerse yourself in the local culture. This means attending cultural events, watching local TV and movies, and reading books and magazines in the local language. The more you are exposed to the language, the easier it will be to pick up.
Finally, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes when learning a new language. The important thing is to keep practicing and you will eventually get the hang of it.
#3- Get Out and Make Some Friends
One of the best ways to deal with culture shock is to make friends with people from the local community. Doing so can help you to learn about the culture and customs of your new home, and also give you a support network to rely on when things get tough.
Here are a few ways to get started making friends in your country of study:
- Join clubs or societies related to your interests: Joining local clubs and societies is a great way to organically connect with the locals. You’ll get to meet people with similar interests to you, which will help you feel more at home.
- Attend local events and festivals: This is a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture and meet new people.
- Get involved with volunteering: If you’re passionate about giving back to the community, look for volunteer opportunities. Doing so will also provide opportunities to meet like-minded people.
- Strike up conversations: Get comfortable with striking up conversations with neighbors and other people you meet. You can do so by asking for directions, recommendations, or just chatting about your day.
#4- Keep In Touch with Family and Friends Back Home
One of the best ways to deal with culture shock is to keep in touch with your family and friends back home. Doing so will help you feel more connected to your home culture and remind you of the things you love about it.
There are plenty of ways to stay in touch, including video chat, social media, email, and even old-fashioned letter writing.
Keeping in touch with your loved ones back home can also help you feel less homesickness while you’re away. So don’t forget to reach out and stay connected.
Culture shock can be a difficult experience. However, it can be manageable with a little planning and preparation.
There are a few things you can do to help you adjust to the culture of the country you are studying in, including learning the customs and traditions, understanding the language, making friends, and keeping connected with family and friends back home.
Be proactive in your preparation for culture shock, and you will be able to make the most of your study abroad experience.
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