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Skidmore College

Cultural Adjustment

First and foremost, please know that culture shock is real and it is normal. You may become very tired four to eight weeks into a semester-long program – physically, from trying to understand language, customs and a myriad of unfamiliar daily tasks, and emotionally, because as hard as you try to reach out and connect, you realize that you will never really be one of the locals. Disappointment can set in. Suddenly you may feel that the food is inadequate, the facilities aren't clean enough, people are abrupt, and the bureaucracy is relentless.

These symptoms are signs that you know enough about the culture to recognize the differences. Now is the time to use some proven techniques to help yourself through the culture shock and into the next stage of full participation and enjoyment:

  • Acknowledge that culture shock is normal and that "this too shall pass";
  • Write about your concerns in your journal and sleep on them before you call home or act on your grievances;
  • Talk with other study abroad participants and staff, and provide support for other students;
  • Keep busy and set some concrete goals;
  • Resist withdrawing into yourself or surrounding yourself with other U.S. citizens;
  • Avoid being judgmental – look on the positive side of diversity and difference;
  • Take care of yourself with enough sleep, etc. and revive your sense of humor.

Above all, get involved in activities you enjoy and don't succumb to the temptation to withdraw—remember, you're a risk taker! Before long, you will find that you're enjoying your new life and that there actually are things that are better abroad (gasp!). Also, don't take yourself too seriously. Laughter is the best medicine. In fact, it will be the most embarrassing moments that will make the best stories when you return home.