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Cultural Adjustment - Tips on How to Cope

Listed below are tips and suggestions of what other students have found helpful when going through a significant cultural adjustment. 

1. Prepare yourself for a cultural adjustment. For example, read books about the culture, travel guide books, local magazines or newspapers (look on the web) and meet people from the country you will be visiting. Learning about important aspects of your new host country such as the political structure, geography, history, religion, social structure and the country’s relationship with the U.S. will greatly enhance your experience and adjustment to the new culture.

2. Learn the language, including body language, to help you fit in more easily. Find out about differences in body language, personal space, manners, etc.

3. Create realistic expectations of what your academic and personal experiences will be like while abroad. Write down your goals for what is important to you to achieve during the study abroad experience. Discuss these with your professors, the Rice Study Abroad staff and resident directors and friends. Don't be afraid to revise your goals as you grow and change.

4. Expect a significant cultural adjustment ("culture shock") to happen.

5. Recognize culture shock as a normal process of adjusting to a new culture, and know that it will pass.

6. Remember that you are not the only one experiencing occasional frustration, irritability, depression, etc. Going through this cultural adjustment does not imply the existence of any psychological or emotional shortcomings on your part. However, if you feel that you need help, don't hesitate to seek it out.

7. Write about your concerns in a journal and sleep on them before you call home or act on your grievances.

8. Keep busy and get involved. Join a club, gym, or choral group, or volunteer for an organization related to your interests or in an area you wish to explore.

9. Resist withdrawing into yourself or surrounding yourself with Americans.

10. Take this opportunity to meet interesting new friends from your host country, and from all over the world.

11. Take care of yourself - eat healthy, exercise and get enough rest.

12. Read some of the local newspapers and listen to the radio every day.

13. Keep a journal of your interesting experiences and write letters to friends and family at home.

14. Make an effort to immerse yourself in the host culture. Avoid being judgmental. Instead, look on the positive side of diversity and difference. Respect the customs and opinions of people you meet.

15. Have a sense of humor!

16. Remember that you are the visitor; you are there to learn about a new culture, not to change it. 

What's Up with Culture is a resource guide for study abroad and consists of materials collected and developed over 30 years of offering cross-cultural training courses at the University of the Pacific. The site also includes materials adapted from the "Culture Matters" Peace Corps Workbook.

Also please remember…the Rice Study Abroad and Wellbeing offices are always available if you ever need someone to talk to!