Being a citizen of the world is an important part of studying abroad, as you’ll be representing not only yourself, but Douglas College, British Columbia and Canada. We have a few suggestions for making your trip as relaxing, fun, and productive as possible:
- Marvel at the differences
- Relax and enjoy
- Respect people by respecting their norms, customs and sensitivities
- Connect with people
- Take the fun with the not-so-fun – this is an adventure!
- Travel light
- Make the world a better place by being there
Ultimately studying abroad is your adventure, and it is up to you to make it a key event you will remember for the rest of your life.
As you travel you leave your footprint on places and people, so be sure to make a good impression!
Culture shock and re-entry shock
When you travel abroad, things may not happen the way you expect. Thinking about each step is important. This can be frustrating and tiring because you are not as confident as you were at home.
Also, things don’t work the same way: the stores may close at awkward times, dinner may be late in the evening, it is difficult to make a phone call, and negotiating with taxi drivers can be a hassle. As a result, you may feel isolated, irritated, overly critical of your new surroundings, depressed or homesick.
These feelings hit different people at different times but typically follow a pattern:
Honeymoon: Everything is new and interesting, you are excited, and you idealize the host culture.
Frustration: Things become irritating and confusing, and you begin to view the host culture as having shortcomings.
Adjustment: You begin to relax and take a more balanced perspective.
Adaptation: You are feeling comfortable with the host culture and understand enough to develop a sense of belonging.
Re-entry shock: You have changed and it is difficult to revert back to how things were before the trip. You and your family and friends need time to adjust to the new you. You may feel a sense of loss related to leaving new friends, exploring a new culture, and your status as a special person.
To deal with culture shock, learn as much as you can about your host country before you leave. Search the internet, read travel books, talk to people who have visited the country, and take advantage of pre-departure sessions.
Understand what is happening to you, recognize the symptoms of culture shock, and try to adapt your behavior accordingly. Take some mementos on your trip to remind you of home or “comfort food” such as your favorite granola bars. Make an effort to get out and make new friends and experience new activities, but at the same time try to do something you do regularly at home such as jog or play video games.
When you get back home talk to your family and friends about your experiences and how your thinking has changed. Reconnect with others by finding out what has changed in their lives while you were gone. It is also possible to maintain overseas friendships by Skype, email and phone.
Guard against making immediate plans to return to your host country. This reaction is a common symptom of re-entry shock. At some point in the future you may want to return, but for now you need time to adjust.
Douglas College provides pre-departure and re-entry sessions for students going abroad. Attending these sessions will give you insights into how to integrate your new learning into your plans for the future. For session dates, contact Douglas College International.
We have listed some resources below to help with culture shock, re-entry shock, and being a good citizen abroad. If you have any other helpful resources, please send it to us and we will post it here.
GlobaLinks Learning Abroad
Vagabondish – Can you survive reverse culture shock?
Respectful travel abroad
Vagabondish – 4 ways to be a traveler, not a tourist
Respectful Travel – Look mommy, a gringo!