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The Cultural Impacts of Studying Abroad – How to adapt (part II of III)

You now know how to pick the best country or region to study abroad in for you (unless you missed Part 1 of 3, in which case you can catch up here), so where do you go from here?

Well if you have found your country, found your program, done all the necessary paperwork, made your travel plans, paid off your session, and made it safely to your country of choice, then the next steps are how to adapt to your new culture and integrate yourself in your new country’s society.

Back view of St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica – Photo: Allyvanessa Valera

Pre-Departure Tips

Hopefully at whatever institution you go to they will give you a seminar with advice on what to do abroad. Programs rarely throw their students directly to their new experience without educating them on what to expect abroad.

If you want to have the feeling of more security, you can do your own research on how to live in the country you will be studying at. You can Google what to wear, what to say, what to order, etc. At the end of the day there is no handbook that will explain what it’s like to go to another country for a significant amount of time. The best way to really analyze something is to observe the local life.

My group and I started to integrate Roman behavior when we were abroad. These started as little things; how to jaywalk, where and how to buy certain items, where to go out at and how to act, what to order for breakfast, etc. Although we were still very obviously American, we learned to appreciate the culture and customs. So let loose and keep your mind open.

View of the Piazza del Popolo from a hill
Piazza del Popolo – Photo: Allyvanessa Valera

Struggles Abroad

Something that isn’t talked about a lot when it comes to traveling/studying abroad is mental health. Adopting to a whole new lifestyle and leaving the life you’re accustomed to, even for a short amount of time, is significant. Students oftentimes experience homesickness and depression abroad. Going through these things takes away from the experience.

These mental health issues can come in various forms, luckily there are many ways to help alleviate the struggles, too. According to Emily Garner, a Program Coordinator from the Education Abroad Office at Colorado State University, some ways to combat these feelings/issues are to always stay busy, create a routine, find your niche, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed.

Staying busy is easy. With so many new things to explore, eat, and see, you’ll always find something interesting to do. Creating a routine is harder, especially while you’re still in the adjustment period. Finding your niche can take time too. This can be finding your place with a group of other students, discovering that restaurant/meal that becomes your new go-to, finding your new study spot outside of your home, etc. After I found the group of students who had the same goal and mentality as me, it was easy to discover new experiences and find our home away from home. Remember to be safe, have an agenda, and plan wisely.

Picture of the Gardens at Tivoli, Italy
Gardens at Tivoli – Photo: Allyvanessa Valera

More Resources

While you’re Googling how to say “where is the bathroom?” in the language of your new country, check out sites such as these for tips to get over homesickness abroad.

Although this experience can be life-changing, there’s no doubt that choosing to study abroad is brave. Not many people can uproot the lifestyle they know and adapt to something different, even for a short time. It doesn’t matter if you experience hiccups and obstacles on the way. What matters is how you overcome them and enrich your own abilities.

Remember to persevere through your challenges, but most importantly have fun abroad.

Fregene Beach and beach equipment
Fregene Beach, Italy – Photo: Allyvanessa Valera
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