Culture shock strikes different people at different times. Some students are immediately affected by cultural and language differences. Others may not experience it for months.
Lessen the surprise
Preparation is the best defense against culture shock. Good guide books often devote a section to how some facets of life Americans take for granted could be different in your host country. You can also get information from:
- The Internet
- Books and articles
- Campus advisers
- Students who have been in the same program or country
Coping with changes
Here are some ideas for inoculating yourself against culture shock:
- Keep in regular contact with friends and family back home. Email and instant messaging are excellent ways to stay in touch. If you don't have an Internet connection, letters will show your friends and family what you are experiencing and will allow them to better prepare for your return.
- Keep a journal or blog (or archive those emails). You can express your thoughts and feelings and provide a detailed account of your travels; it may help other students who are interested in participating in a similar program.
- Make friends in your host country: natives as well as other U.S. or international students. This will help you learn about your host country while sharing the experiences of people in the same situation.
After you return
"Reverse culture shock" or "re-entry shock" can strike when you get home. You will be accustomed to doing things in new and different ways and will need time to return to your old ways. Good study abroad programs let students connect with others returning from similar programs or with students ready to depart.