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Studying Far and Wide: The Shock of Culture

No matter where you go in the world to study, whether it’s to the other side of the globe or the other side of the country, there is bound to be some form of culture shock in one way or another. Going to study abroad in another country can be an incredibly exciting experience, and when it is make sure you treasure those moments. However, there will be times when you realize that you’re not at home anymore. Things you thought would be new, exotic and original have the possibility of becoming maybe a little bit too different and leaving you a rather frustrated and homesick. Every continent, every country, even every state is different and getting used to it can prove difficult if you’re not prepared. When you take that first step into a new country as a young student everything is bound to seem a little strange: the food, the transport as well as your studies and new college. Obviously, if you’ve grown up and lived in the same town for your whole life, you are used to the values and ideals of that particular culture, so trying to adapt to foreign culture can create a mixture of emotion. 

Language:

Differences across the world are varied, whether they are huge differences between the U.S and Asia or simply smaller differences between states or moving from a small town to a big city. Firstly, and most obviously, the language barrier can be a huge shock. It is the main thing that separates the world, and most people see language as a beautiful thing. However, if you are not studying a particular language, you may often find yourself a little bit stuck. Trying to talk to locals or trying to figure out street signs on your way to class is bound to start off a little awkwardly, that is until you start to know your way around and start picking up some simple phrases to get by. 

Culture:

Even if you are going to study in an English speaking country, the reality of other cultures can also be a surprise. Standard and way of living can differ greatly country-to-country; you can never expect the same ways of life no matter what language they speak. Food is another main difference across the world, as it is unlikely for you to find home comforts once you’re away from home. Trying local cuisine is a must to be able to become more familiar with a different culture, but your favorite home-cooked meal is unlikely to be found. Instead, just dig into some of that real Italian pizza or French cheese. 

Phases of Cultural Adjustment:

There are various phases of adjusting to different cultures once you’ve chosen to study in another country. It begins with the initial euphoria, beginning with the excitement of arriving in the new country and ending as the excitement eventually wears off. The irritability phase is introduced if certain aspects of everyday life become difficult to get used to, as everything still feels new and different and, well, foreign. You will begin to focus on simply the differences between home and your new country, and sometimes even the little difficulties will appear major to you. Therefore the culture shock can be a little bit too overwhelming and difficult to handle for some. When things do become too much, it may be easy to take a wrong turn if you are unable to deal with the pressures of culture shock alongside the pressure of further education. No matter what you have turned to, returning home is always a possibility due to the number of recovery programs in California and across the U.S. However, if able to progress through this phase, then gradual adjustment and adaptation can be achieved. The differences will minimize, and you will begin to be fascinated with your new home, enjoying the culture, cuisine and learning the language. 

Easing Cultural Shock:

Most people will naturally experience some form of culture shock in a variety of proportions, but mostly you will be able to handle the differences from home and adapt to your new country with no problems. Travelling with a genuine interest in the culture that you are staying in for your studies is imperative, as if you have no interest then you will be more reluctant to try new things; so an open mind is imperative to begin an unforgettable experience. Also, as long as you are prepared for things to be different and you are not expecting everyday life to be exactly the same, then any differences you come across will not be as drastic as they first seem. Studying abroad should be an amazing and exciting experience, and the thought of culture shock should not put you off trying something new.

by Jennifer Mann
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