Adapting to a new culture means moving out of your learned behavior pattern and shifting to another. This difficult but enriching process, has to be learned through personal experiences. Cultural adaptation commonly follows these four stages:
1. Honeymoon Period. During the first few weeks the new culture seems exciting and most experiences are positive. You may feel like you can handle anything.
2. Culture Shock. Excitement begins to wear off and experiences become problematic. Common feelings in this stage are: homesickness, negative feelings about the host culture, irritation, frustration, disbelief, possibly depression.
3. Acceptance. At this stage you begin to understand and accept the new culture. You realize that there are things that you like and others that you may not in the host culture. You accept that you cannot change the culture; rather, you can change how you respond to it.
4. Adaptation. By now you have adapted your behavior to conform with cultural norms and expectations. You may not even notice the ways in which you have changed. As a result, you may be mistaken for a local or a native speaker. Living in the host culture starts to become second nature to you.
Here are some strategies to deal with the cultural shock:
Manage your expectations. Try to understand rather than judge cultural differences. Accept that things are different.
Be communicative and take the initiative. Learn from your mistakes. If your strategy doesn’t work, try a new approach.
Recognize what you can and cannot control. Allow yourself to ask for help if you need it.
Develop and maintain social support not only with your U.S. classmates but also with local people.
Establish stability zones. It’s okay to take small “breaks” from the local culture, but do not withdraw altogether.
Get involved with the culture in some meaningful way such as doing community service, participating in a language exchange, spending time with a host family, joining a local gym, etc.
Many students post an online journal or weblog to share their experiences with family and friends. Just remember to be careful with the information and photos you share online, since they may come back to haunt you! Some online journal programs offer the option of “private” or “friends-only” posts or password-protected blogs. We are happy to post links to student blogs as long as they conform to the UC Responsible Use Guide.
Here are some popular blog sites:
If you want to write about your experiences in a public setting, here are some suggested sites:
Preparing to return can be a bittersweet experience. On the one hand, you may be anxious to see your family and friends again; on the other, you may feel like you just started to make connections in the host country.
- Your program will offer some type of support to help you prepare for possible reverse cultural adjustment. At the same time, you will need to take certain steps to assure a smooth transition to life at Ursinus.
- Semester and academic year abroad students will receive detailed email instructions on how to register online for courses for their next semester on campus. Please continue to check and purge your UC email account, and maintain contact with your academic adviser regarding course selection. If you do not have internet access, you may register over the phone (610 409-3605) or by fax (610 409-3756), or ask your academic adviser to submit a registration form on your behalf.
- Several forms will be mailed to your permanent address including the Return to Active Status form. Return this form to the Dean’s Office by June 1 for the fall semester or November 1 for the spring semester.
- You will need to clear any balance due on your UC student account submit paperwork for financial aid as usual.
- Contact Melissa Sanders Giess, Director of Residence Life, to arrange campus housing.
- Contact your study abroad program to request an official transcript be sent to the Center for International Studies, Ursinus College, 601 E. Main St., Collegeville, PA 19426. You cannot be granted transfer credit until your official transcript is received and reviewed.