Culture shock

Once you have landed and the initial excitement of your adventure has started to wane off you, may find yourself beginning to experience some culture shock. Culture shock is an uneasy feeling or a feeling of disorientation as a result of unfamiliarity with a new culture and society. Different cultural cues, humor, and norms may make you feel as if you do not know how to interact with other people and may make you want to give up, but trust it will dissipate.

There are five stages to culture shock:

  1. Honeymoon phase– everything is new and exciting.
  2. Anxiety and distress– some experience may lead to comparisons to home culture and way of living. May feel like wanting to go back home.
  3. Re-integration and gradual adjustment- start to find ways to better understand the culture and adjust attitude.
  4. Adaptation- overcome differences and find a strategy to problem solve.
  5.  Independence- may start to change mind about own culture and notice some original behaviors and mindsets have changed.

Homesickness, anxiety, and frustration may accompany your culture shock but again, its all a natural response to being exposed to a new cultural experience. Experiencing culture shock is just a part of studying abroad, just as the honeymoon phase at the beginning was. Eventually you will move on to adaptation, and will learn to live in your new destination and appreciate all the rich and new culture it has to offer. Until that stage however, try some of these culture shock coping strategies to make the rough patch as smooth as possible.

The first step in dealing with culture shock is to admit that it is happening. Realize that you are struggling with all of these changes and try not to be too hard on yourself. Again, this too will pass. Try to keep in contact with people back home and most importantly, do not idealize your life back home. Just because you are having problems abroad does not mean that back home is a land of no issues or obstacles.

The best way to start working on your culture shock is to start and really try to learn the rules and customs of your host country. Their customs and behaviors may be different but one custom is never better than the other and who knows, you may wind up picking up a habit or something that you bring home. Try even picking up a new sport or hobby that is popular in the culture. Really immersing yourself will help you begin to appreciate and understand everything around you a lot more.

Oftentimes small gestures can go a long way when trying to manage culture shock and homesickness. Try doing an activity that makes you feel slightly closer to home. Something as simple as listening to a song that reminds you of home or eating a particular type of food may do the trick.

There’s no denying that culture shock is an experience most people would rather go without, but it is a short-lived experience that truly helps you enjoy the culture you are surrounded by once it has passed. If you feel like you need further assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to LAS Study Abroad or your program director.


Travel resources

Traveling comes with a lot of extra baggage, excuse the pun, such as learning how to use different transit systems, navigating a new language, and the list goes on.  LAS Study Abroad has gathered some travel resources to keep handy during your adventure abroad.

The best bet for getting an overview on anything you’re curious about is a guidebook. There can be a lot out there, and some are undeniably better than others, so we took the guesswork out and listed our top five guidebooks for you to look at and learn from.

  1. Let’s Go: A travel guide written by Harvard Students aimed at other students traveling.
  2. Fodor’s: Fodor’s is a unique travel guide because every article is written by locals.
  3. Rough Guides: A one-stop hub for everything a traveler needs.
  4. Lonely Planet: A well-known and expansive travel guide.

Knowing about a place is one thing, but finding travel to that destination is an entirely different ballgame. The world may be more connected than you think, so do not necessarily think flying is your only option for traveling long distances. Whether its plane, train or automobile here are some examples of helpful travel resources.

  • StudentUniverse: StudentUniverse is dedicated to finding the best deals on flights, hotels, and even tours for travelers aged 26 and under. The app has constantly revolving travel deals so wherever you go be sure to check and see if StudentUniverse has deals for you.
  • FareCompare: Part of the hassle with booking tickets is wondering if you missed a better deal somewhere else. FareCompare takes all the guesswork out of comparing prices and helps your mind rest easy knowing you got the best fare out there.
  • Rail Europe: Official for rail and bus operators in the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
  • FlixBus: Convenient, affordable and easy to use bus service for over 2000 destinations.

Now that you know everything you have to know about wherever you may travel to and know how you’re getting there, it’s time to find an actual place to stay while visiting. Hotels can be expensive depending on the location, so finding hostels or Airbnb’s is another option. Below are some resources for your hotel-less stay.

  1. Airbnb: Vacation rentals around the world.
  2. Hostelworld: The best place for booking hostels with a great review system to set expectations.
  3. Hotel booking website. Book 10 nights and get a night free.

With these tools the world is truly your oyster. Make sure to always keep your safety in mind wherever you go, and do not forget to explore your study abroad destination as well. Have fun, travel, and study hard.