Cultural Adjustment

What about culture shock?

Experiencing new cultures and obtaining a better understanding of your own culture can result in some of the most positive, life-changing experiences you will have while studying abroad. While the introduction to a new and foreign culture will greatly benefit you, it can also be overwhelming. Cultural differences can be so great that you may need extra time to adjust. This is normal. The new cultural norms that you encounter may be so different that they seem "shocking" in comparison to cultural norms back home. Your reaction of feeling "shocked" by a culture's attributes could include feelings of depression, anger, sadness, anxiety. loneliness, etc.  These feelings can also manifest themselves into physical reactions including lethargy, crying, excessive sleeping, fear, mood swings, reckless behavior, etc.   

What can I do to work through moments of culture shock or homesickness?

Prepare yourself for some down times; they happen to practically everyone trying to make it in a culture they have never lived in before. Realizing that what you are feeling is natural and that other students are probably experiencing the same thing will help you to avoid discouragement.  Many students studying abroad experience times when they feel depressed. However, the overwhelming majority comes away from their experience abroad even stronger and better adapted for living and working with others. One of the best ways to work through culture shock is to keep yourself busy, and try to be open about your feelings with friends and family. Remember that your program also has program directors and other staff who are willing to listen and help where they can.

One of the best things to do is to stay busy! Although you may miss your friends and family, it is important not to spend too much of your time trying to be "home" instead of "present", such as by emailing, Skyping, talking on the phone, or being on Facebook 24/7 with your family and friends back in the States. In the grand scheme of things, your time abroad will be brief. Keep busy by traveling, visiting shops, markets, and museums, and going out with new study abroad friends, either American or international. It is very normal to feel homesick or culture shock, and don't be embarrassed to talk with one of your study abroad staff or administrators about what you are experiencing. 

Please don't forget if you are feeling "down" for a long time, this can also be a sign of a physical ailment.  Be sure to visit a doctor if you think your "low" may be more than just a rough emotional period. You can also reach out to UA's Counseling and Psychological Services.