So…you have been accepted into your dream university in another country. Congratulations, but what comes next? While you wait to get your student visa and go abroad, how can you prepare to study abroad and beat culture shock?
What is culture shock? Culture shock is the anxiety, disorientation, and homesickness experienced when you encounter norms and beliefs are much different than your own. You may feel like you don’t understand what is happening around you, feel angry at local people for their customs, or feel out of place in a new home. Luckily, culture shock does not last forever. By learning the skills of communication and adaptation, you can adjust to a new culture and feel at home in a new country or city.
It’s normal to feel nervous or anxious about leaving home, especially if you have never been to a new country on your own before. Starting university is a new experience for everyone, but there are many ways you can prepare ahead of time. Here are the best ways to prepare to study abroad and beat culture shock:
1. Research your destination ahead of time.
What is the capital city and the currency? What are its famous landmarks?
2. Memorize emergency numbers
Write down or memorize emergency numbers for police, fire, hospital, and university police/safety department.
3. Learn phrases in the local language.
“My name is…” “Where is the bathroom?” and numbers 1-10 are some essential phrases. Even if you study in English, people outside the campus might speak a different language.
4. Follow the university’s social media.
5. Download a campus map of the university.
You’ll always be prepared and never be lost on campus!
6. Watch some local TV shows.
This is a good way to understand the sense of humor and pop culture from your study abroad destination.
7. Bring appropriate clothing.
Whether you are traveling to a cold country, or a country where everyone dresses modestly, it’s important to bring the right kind of clothing so you feel like you fit in right away.
8. Chat with friends from your university.
If you have friends who have traveled or studied in your future home country before, ask them for tips and advice!
9. Find religious centers.
If you are religious, do some research on mosques, temples, or churches in your future home. You can find support and cultural understanding in these places!
10. Bring reminders from home.
It’s a good idea to bring your favorite snacks, spices, a flag of your country, pictures of family and friends, etc.
11. Know and follow local laws.
Some countries may restrict drinking, smoking, drug use, noisiness at night, jaywalking…doing a bit of research into local laws will help you avoid the difficulty of an encounter with police!
12. Develop an open mind.
You may encounter people with beliefs totally different than yours. Practice developing an open mind by reading books/watching documentaries about new ideas.
13. Read news about your study destination.
14. Know any internet restrictions.
In some countries, WhatsApp, Google, Facebook, or Twitter may be restricted. Make sure you have a safe and reliable way to contact your friends and family back home.
15. Practice forgiving yourself.
You will probably make mistakes–miss a train, fail a quiz, say the wrong thing. Everyone makes these mistakes, even local students, and they may be frustrating but will not destroy your future. Practice forgiving yourself for small mistakes. Moving to a new country is hard, but you can do it!
16. Prepare medications and prescriptions.
You may not be able to get certain medications in your new home. Make sure you bring enough to last the school year, and translate your prescriptions/medical information into the local language.
17. Read a famous book.
Read a book by the country’s most famous author to help you understand what local people are interested in and thinking about.
18. Expect to share your culture.
Your classmates may be very curious about where you come from. Get ready to share some information about your local holidays, foods, and customs with your international classmates.
19. Practice cooking your favorite food
20. Prepare to be surprised!
No matter how prepared you are ahead of time, it’s certain that life will surprise you in some way! Prepare what you can, but enjoy all the surprises and new adventures that will come your way.
Studying abroad is an amazing, exciting experience that will challenge you, help you grow, and give you a lifetime of stories to tell.
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