April Study Abroad Tips (PDF)

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Author: Corina Gonzalez,

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Study Abroad Tips
Many travelers go through different stages in relating to
a new culture. One of the more simple models to
describe this process:
• The excitement stage. Everything around you is
new and exciting. An open-air market appears
picturesque, the vendors seem lively, the food
for sale smells fragrant & tastes exotic.
• The disillusioned stage. You have the same
experiences as before, but now you make a
negative assessment, not a positive one. The
same open-air market now seems to have become run down and chaotic, the vendors
seem aggressive or obnoxious; the food has become gross. Culture shock may be a
factor at this stage.
• The balanced stage. With time, you realize that there is as much good, and as much bad,
in the new culture as in your home culture – they are just arranged and presented
differently. Your anger and disappointment fade, and you realize that you can function
effectively outside your home culture. It’s clear that the open-air market is different from
the store where you buy food at home, but you see that both have their advantages. The
vendors are distinct from the grocery clerks at home, but they all get the job done. The
food is indeed different from food at home, and you’re glad you’ve tried so many new
Culture Shock
• Culture shock is a name given to the collection of feelings that sometimes arise when
travelers are overwhelmed by cultural differences. The symptoms can include feeling
lonely, homesick, overwhelmed, fearful, angry, confused or judgmental.
Developing Intercultural Competency
• Interventions help students increase their
cultural self-awareness as well as their
awareness of others (e.g., differences between
their cultural values and those of another culture
• Cultural reflection results in greater cultural
insight and an increas in students’ intercultural
• Immerse yourself in the culture through food,

traditions, music, and language. Be sure to go in-depth in understanding the culture to
avoid stereotypes and debunk misconceptions.
Pre-departure and reentry preparation directly focuses on cultural learning as opposed to
dos and taboos or non-cultural learning (e.g., sights to see).
Reflect on your experiences to make meaning of them.
Components as most influential in building intercultural competence during study abroad:
cultural mentoring, learning about experiences, active involvement in the cultural setting,
pre-departure and re-entry preparation, and onsite cross-cultural interventions.

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