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Cultural Adjustment

While Abroad: Cultural Adjustment

Students should expect that their study abroad journey will be full of both new and exciting experiences as well as challenges and adjustments. Ups and downs are normal and should be expected. These fluctuations are often referred to as culture shock. For some students the initial adjustment period of the first few weeks can be the most difficult; others may find that moods can change throughout the semester, as what was once new and exciting becomes routine. Students should expect to make mistakes and should learn to not be hard on themselves when mistakes happen. Living in a new culture and speaking a new language can also be exhausting at times. It’s important to learn to take care of oneself (e.g., get enough sleep, eat well, etc.). 

While engaging fully in the new environment, it is helpful to think about what kinds of activities you enjoy and how you can pursue them in your new environment. For instance, if you have a regular exercise routine, what athletic facilities will be available on the new campus or in your neighborhood? What clubs or organizations that you participate in on your home campus may be available to you in the new context? Finally, one can also begin to integrate into a culture by trying new things. For example, what dishes can a member of the host culture teach you to cook and what foods from your home context can you share? What dances and or music can you share and learn?

Should you find that you are having trouble adjusting over a long period of time, you should seek out professional assistance. Generally, the host program can make recommendations (although keep in mind that counselors may not be available in all locations) and if you are already known to one of counselors, the Counseling Office at Swarthmore can also be contacted for advice. Finally, the Off-Campus Study Office is always available to try to assist you.