One of the big questions when traveling overseas is how to overcome culture shock, especially if you are a teenager at the age of exploring yourself. One thing to keep in mind: it will happen, for sure.

So what is culture shock? It essentially is the transition from one environment to another. There are four main phases: honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment, and adaption.

The first phase is the honeymoon. When you first change to a new environment, you will be fascinated by mostly everything. In short, “this is cool.” This description is a bit extreme. My honeymoon was mild. I was not super excited but I thought everything was nice and I remained “no extreme emotion.” Guess what, it was still a honeymoon.

When you start to recognize the difference between the present and previous culture, negotiation comes in. In this time, excitement is gone, giving way to anxiety and unpleasant feelings. You will start to feel strange and even feel disconnected to everyone/everything, and you start to feel lonely and homesick because you don’t know this new environment yet. There are several reasons for this: a language barrier, miscommunication, different customs, etc.

However, keep in mind, it is okay to feel this way, and it is not abnormal to feel you don’t belong to a community. It happens. The biggest issue is, again, communication. So talk to other people. Find a “safe” place for you to cry and release yourself. Go through a list of the people you know and find one who you think you can come and talk to. That person can be a friend, your host family, a teacher, etc. Another thing you should do is go out and get involved. The problem you are facing is disconnection, so go and connect yourself to the community. I was lucky to be introduced to a church group that was very loving, even when I was not religious. Keep you head straight and don’t lose to drugs and smoking.

Things get better eventually. We all learn. You will grow accustomed to the new culture and know what to expect. Everything becomes “normal” again.

So in a nutshell, only when you spend a year or over in a new place can you really understand culture shock. In other words, if you just spend a month or so vacationing in another country, it’s not enough to think you are not affected by culture shock (like I foolishly did…). Culture shock is not a monster, but a learning process. After getting through it you will realize you have learned so much, especially about the new culture you are in. Don’t be intimidated and seek for love :)