10 Tips on Adjusting to Living Abroad

According to several travel resources, when traveling or living abroad, it’s common to experience culture shock, especially if there are vast cultural differences and a language barrier. However, if you are prepared, the adjustment period doesn’t have to be painful, but rather, the time you spend in a foreign country can be one of the most rewarding and interesting adventures of your life.

Here are 10 tips to help you adjust to a new culture while living abroad:

1. Keep an open mind

Only through experience will you understand another culture. You must keep an open mind, leaving prejudices behind, in order to observe the cultural knowledge people are using to organize their behavior. With a positive attitude, pay attention to the worldviews of the new culture and be aware of what is taking place around you.

2. Learn about the culture and language beforehand

Prepare for your trip by reading books about the culture, travel guidebooks, and popular Web sites or newspapers relevant to the region you are traveling to. If there will be a language barrier, take language classes or seek out a tutor to make your transition period easier.

3. Make new friends

Befriend at least one person native to the country you are living in. Join a group, club, or a sports league to build a network, and go out of your way to find people you will get along with. Study abroad students can easily make friends at school.

4. Get involved in local activities

Immerse yourself in the cultural experience by taking classes that are related to the local culture, which will teach you things you would have never understood on your own.

5. Keep a journal to write down thoughts and experiences

 To help remember your trip, record your impressions of new experiences and the transformations occurring during your time abroad.

6. Get to know your host

Study abroad students who live with a host family should make an effort to get to know their hosts. If they are mindful of their host’s family lifestyle and mimic it, they’ll have an easy “in” into culture norms, such as rules and customs. Students should also show respect by being open to new experiences, such as family meals and sports events.

7. Don’t let language barriers discourage you

Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t pick up another language immediately. In fact, if you’re visiting a country for the first time, you should expect cultural shock. Learn the language as best you can before you travel, and pay attention to body language and manners to help you fit in easily.

8. Consider getting a job or internship

Study abroad students should seek out internships and jobs that are available specifically for international students through their school’s international student center.

9. Explore your surroundings

Don’t hide in your room or only hang out with other Americans. Get out of your comfort zone and explore popular cultural sites and activities in the country you are visiting or living in. Also, take long walks around your new neighborhood to become familiar with the local coffee shops, restaurants, bars, grocery stores, banks, and the post office.

10. Keep in touch with friends and family at home

Write letters and emails to friends and family at home, or keep a blog to share posts, photos, and videos about your trip. These will also help to serve as keepsakes of your time abroad.  

While it is normal to experience some challenges and frustrations when traveling or living abroad, the above tips will help to ensure that your trip will be an adventure—wherever you’re headed.

Mandy Fricke works for eLearners.com where she helps manage their online community for masters programs. In her free time she enjoys, biking, traveling, and reading in coffee shops. You can follow her on Google+.

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