One thing I wish I had known before I studied abroad was that culture shock can happen to anyone, even if you think you are familiar with the culture.
The program that I participated in took me to Alexandria, Egypt where I completed an intensive third year Arabic language program. The faculty member in charge of the program and his program chaperons were very informative. They were helpful about how to navigate daily life in Egypt and what to be aware of in regards to cultural interactions. Although, there was one thing that was not covered, and that was how to deal with culture shock.
The stages of culture shock are:
- Initial Euphoria/Honeymoon Stage
- Irritation and Hostility/ The Negotiation Stage
- Gradual Understanding/ The Adjustment Stage
- Adaptation or Bi-culturalism/ The Mastery Stage
I definitely experienced each of these phases despite the fact I was already knew what to expect with the culture of the Middle East. Here are some suggestions of how to curb culture shock in each stage:
- Learn as much about the culture as possible:
- Whether or not you have familiarity with a culture, there is always more to learn and explore.
- Ask study abroad coordinators for advice
- If you have a study abroad coordinator that is very familiar with your program location, ask them questions about what to expect. They are a wealth of resources to prepare for housing, travel, and daily social interactions.
- Write down what you love when you first arrive, and look back later
- Journaling is always a good for the mind and soul. This is a good way to release stress and remember joyful events. Writing down positive experiences can help when you have rough days and need to remember what you love about your programs location.
- Talk to other students about how you feel
- If you have other students on your study abroad program, communicate with them about your experiences
- Push yourself to make local friends
- Do not isolate yourself and try to stay social. Reach out to local students and make new friends and connections. This will help you in becoming more familiar with your surroundings and feelings of loneliness.
- Try to see things through host culture’s eye
- If you disagree or do not appreciate something from your host culture, take a step back and look through their eyes. There is always a reason for culturalisms.
- Get involved with the local community