How To Avoid Culture Shock When You Study Abroad

How To Avoid Culture Shock When You Study Abroad

Studying abroad will be the best experience of your life, if you'll let it!


Studying abroad is probably the pinnacle of any college experience. But what many take for granted is just how shocking it can be to be thrown headfirst into a brand new culture. Their customs, traditions, foods and even language can all be roadblocks that impact anyone's time abroad.

But, there are measures that you can take to ensure that you aren't spending your precious time overseas struggling to adapt.

1. The first and most important thing to remember is that your culture isn't necessarily "right" in every aspect.

Just because your host country is different doesn't mean it's "wrong." In fact, no country can be right or wrong. So don't let yourself begin your experience by judging every difference because you'll quickly exhaust yourself and start your trip on the wrong foot. Instead, take in every change for what it is: a symptom of the adventure you bravely undertook.

2. If you take your trip as a tourist, you'll only see your study abroad through the rose-colored glasses of America.

Every country with a market in tourism "Disney-fies" the country to be more appealing to its visitors. But when we stick to what we know, or even the neighbor of familiarity, we'll stick to the tendency to compare their culture to ours. By focusing on the travel agent's top 10 sites and visiting only to spend hours fighting selfie sticks and street vendors selling the same plastic trinkets at every block, you'll truly miss out on some of the authenticity that makes your extended travels so important.

What's more, by seeing everything as American-adjacent, you'll find yourself missing your home country even more. It's those "close but no cigar" moments that will make it harder to be away from what you know. So, by all means, take in the tourist sites, but don't forget to explore more of the underground or native go-to hangouts. When you stop searching for what you know, you can take in the world around you.

3. Live in the moment.

I'm guilty of this too. Many times, I'm caught up in trying to take the perfect Instagram picture that I don't really look at the world around me. I want to show off where I am without exactly knowing where I am. Be sure to get your pictures (those will be memories you will keep forever), but also take a time to put the cameras away and live!

4. Find your routine.

Even on a vacation of sorts, it's good to find a sense of normalcy so that it doesn't get too overwhelming. Whether you're taking classes, interning, both or neither, it's important to find some daily comfort. Maybe it's a coffee shop down the block, maybe it's your morning commute and the playlist you listen to on the way, maybe it's a unique store that you like to shop at. Whatever it is, make your own home away from home. Once you have your home base, you'll then be able to venture further out of your comfort zone and experience the world around you.

5. Most important of all, enjoy yourself!

Remember every detail! Take advantage of every opportunity! Have fun! These will be the stories you'll tell your family, friends, kids and grandkids years from now! So make it count!

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30 Places Every Millennial Girl Needs To Travel To BEFORE She Turns 30

Live your best life, all around the world.

I am a travel enthusiast. There is nowhere I do not want to go.

Traveling the world is one of my biggest goals in life and I am determined to make it happen. The world is so big and I would love to see every inch of it at some point or another.

However, if I can travel to these 30 places before I turn 30, I will feel as though I have accomplished more than enough.

1. New York City, New York

2. New Orleans, Louisiana

3. Grand Canyon, Arizona

4. Las Vegas, Nevada

5. San Francisco, California

6. Los Angeles, California

7. Nashville, Tennessee

8. Honolulu, Hawaii

9. Walt Disney World, Florida

10. Chicago, Illinois

11. Nassau, Bahamas

12. Cozumel, Mexico

13. Cancún, Mexico

14. Bridgetown, Barbados

15. Basseterre, St. Kitts

16. Philipsburg, St. Maarten

17. Montego Bay, Jamacia

18. Christiansted, St. Croix

19. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

20. Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas

21. Tortola Baths, Tortola

22. San Juan, Puerto Rico

23. Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos

24. Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

25. Oranjestad, Aruba

26. Mykonos, Greece

27. London, England

28. Paris, France

29. Barcelona, Spain

30. Rome, Italy

Okay, so these are 30 places I want to go out of like, a million. I have traveled to some of these places and would not hesitate one second to go back.

Every new place is like a new adventure, and traveling will forever be so exciting and intruiging to me.

Cover Image Credit: Maisa Teat

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Valuable Takeaways You Will Get From Studying Abroad

The things you'll remember most won't be the "crazy parties", but memories much more meaningful than that.


Everyone who studies abroad always comes back saying the same cliche things, such as how study abroad absolutely changed them or how they feel like they just belong in the place they studied in. Others will boast about skipping all their classes and partying every other night, which in a way, are also unique experiences. After 4 months abroad, I can assure you that although there is some truth in all of those statements, the reality is more of a mild mix of all of them. You will create unforgettable memories with friends and spend time partying it up in the city, but you will also come to genuinely appreciate your city for its small quirks instead of the major touristy activities. Regardless of your experience, however, here are some lessons everyone will have taken from their time abroad.

1. More Independence

No matter how well traveled you were before starting this semester abroad, when you're thrown into a foreign country with no one familiar, you'll be forced to grow up quickly. From figuring out how to interact with your non-student neighbors to figuring out meals every single day, studying abroad will help you grow up quickly. This may be the first time that you'll be away from everyone you know for more than a few weeks, and you'll have to find ways to cope with it.

2. New Perspectives

After spending more than 10 years in the American education system, learning about events like World War II and the Global Financial Crisis from a non-American perspective can be extremely eye-opening. Interactions and discussions with international students from other countries will leave you baffled at how many major things in history that your public high school education back in America never taught you. Picnics with your classmates will reveal new foods that you have never been exposed to, but that you now love and must eat once a week. The world is a diverse place, and it required you to get out of the country to truly realize it.

3. Travel opportunities

In the US, you could drive 7 hours from Los Angeles and still end up in California. In Europe or Asia or any other place, transportation methods under that same time can get you to another country or even multiple countries. Instead of a weekend trip to the mountains in the same state, you can take a train from Paris and end up in London a mere two hours later. With different countries so close together, take as many chances as possible to explore as much as you can. That being said, don't forget to travel within your own country and thoroughly explore the place you're living in!

4. Lifelong friendships

Even if you're an introvert, you'll find someone you can get along well with while abroad. Slowly but surely, you'll make that study buddy, gym buddy, boba buddy, or whatever-else-you-do buddy. Realistically, you won't be able to meet up with these people anytime soon after your time abroad, but you'll become so close to them during these few months because you're all on your own for the first time. Every few years, you'll still be compelled to meet up and catch up with them. Every time you visit a country, you'll be able to hit up the friend you made while studying abroad who lives there.

Everyone's study abroad experience will be different, but as long as you put yourself out there and make the most of your time abroad, you will come home with some of the fondest memories of your life.

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