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Cross-Cultural Preparation

You can expect to deal with several waves of homesickness and culture shock while abroad. While experiencing these feelings, it is important to remember that these feelings come and go in waves. At some point you may feel as though you want to go home, but within a few days you will probably begin to feel more positive about your new surroundings.

There are many articles online addressing the subjects of homesickness, culture shock, and cultural adjustment. These are some of the most valuable and effective guides:


The following are suggestions from articles and from study abroad alumni for coping with and minimizing feelings of homesickness and cultural shock while abroad.

Get busy! Establish a regular routine or a full schedule of things to do, and your emotions will stabilize. What is important is that there is some kind of structure, and that you stick to it. Free time and a lack of structure tend to bring on culture shock or homesickness.

Homesickness is temporary. While you might miss your family and home during the duration of your study abroad experience, remember that the pangs of homesickness, nostalgia, or anxiety are likely to dissipate in a day or so, especially if you are proactive about accepting and moving through those intense periods.

Journaling and letter writing. Journaling and letter writing may help alleviate anxieties, and will force you to slow down and reflect on your whirlwind experiences.

Accept challenges. Completing simple tasks and errands abroad can be very challenging and time consuming either because you do not speak the language or because you’re unfamiliar with the local procedures, or both. Go easy on yourself, and congratulate yourself for successfully navigating through these new customs!

Manage contact with people from home. Too much contact with home and too little contact with home is sure to cause some homesickness. If you are constantly in contact with friends and family from home, then you are only making homesickness worse and are limiting the time you do have to explore your new hometown and meet locals.

Talk to someone around you. Most likely you will be in a situation with other students; take advantage of this and talk to people. Many people have experienced homesickness (or will be experiencing it at the same time you are!) and can easily empathize.

Expect some stress. Studying abroad proves to be very different from a relaxing vacation. Stressful situations are common in such a challenging situation. Find some constructive ways to decompress and give yourself time to do this regularly.

Exercise. Physical activity is a great way to release endorphins and start to feel great. Exercising is also a great way to meet people and can give you a confidence boost.

Participate in familiar activities. If you are an avid runner or enjoy music festivals while in the US, seek out these activities while you abroad. However, do not expect these activities to be exactly the same as they are in the states: discover the differences between American & foreign cultures.

Explore your new hometown. Meet the locals, make friends, and try something new. If you are missing something in particular from home, find a way to incorporate it or something new into your new life.

Stay positive! It’s easier said than done, but it is necessary. Having a sense of humor and trying to stay positive is a great way to not only have fun but also get the most out of your experience. Don’t let little things discourage you!

What's Up With Culture?

This material offers an opportunity to explore various aspects of intercultural communication and adjustment models that are known to impact upon all study abroad experiences.  This site is self-guided and self-paced. We hope you will use it as a vehicle for self-exploration.
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