Traveling Abroad: A Time to Learn, Adapt, and Cope with Change

With the current economic struggles, more people are turning to school and discovering new cultures through studying abroad. The other day my friend told me she attended a Henna party as a pre-wedding ceremony for her friend. Along with several other attendees, she had a Henna design painted onto her hand. She thought the design would last a week, but when she discovered it might not wash off for two or three weeks she started to panic. Her interest to this Indian custom reminded me why people choose to study abroad – and how easily they can find themselves uncomfortable. Our societal growth is dependent upon our learning and understanding of different languages and cultures. A study abroad experience is most rewarding when we let ourselves experience and participate in the traditions and lifestyle of others.

Choosing to study abroad feels tough at first. Once the decision is made, the trip set, and all the details mapped out… then the real nerves take shape.  Look around Gulliver if you need any help in the “getting ready” category. It’s a lot easier to talk about a new culture than it is to adapt to one. Italy is a beautiful country, but it’s frustrating when you don’t know the language. Japan has so much going on, but again, do you really get a feel for the land if you don’t associate with locals or participate in any daily rituals? Taking that first step toward integrating into another cultural identity is difficult. We have a tendency to use our own values and beliefs to judge a situation. Here are a few tips to get you around these initial judgments:

1) Look at the situation in terms of your own cultural traits, customs, or values.
2) Look at the situation in terms of the host culture’s traits, customs, or values.
3) Understand how your perceptions influence your view of the situation.
4) Redefine the situation, but this time without any cloud of judgment and act in a way that benefits everyone.

People go to different countries for school, business, or to live. Some people adapt well to a new environment, while others retain their original cultural identity. Adapting to a new culture or environment will greatly depend on you background, where you stay, and your personality.

The Peace Corps offers coping mechanisms for its volunteers that apply to anyone traveling overseas. Here are a few instructive ideas to consider: build bonds with other people (sports clubs, movies, social gatherings, volunteering); do things on your own (cooking, writing, watching TV, studying language); remind yourself: No pain, no gain; and learn the new language (talk with children, eavesdrop at a café, get involved in group activities).

Studying abroad is a learning experience. Don’t let your fear of becoming part of a new culture hold you back. It’s difficult to fit in; it takes time, but the whole reason to discover a new culture is not to sit back and watch others get involved. In this current global economy, knowing multiple cultures, having connections overseas, and understanding cultural interactions, will help you become more well-rounded, educated, and valuable. Go and explore the world – and bring a piece of everything you learn back home.

2 Responses to “Traveling Abroad: A Time to Learn, Adapt, and Cope with Change”

  1. 1 MichaellaS July 21, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    tks for the effort you put in here I appreciate it!

  2. 2 Mollie Caselli July 22, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Thanks for the note! Hope the site is helpful! Feel free to check us out on Facebook and Twitter as well! Encourage anyone who wants to study abroad or travel to check us out too! Thanks!

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Gulliver helps students Study Abroad. Our blog covers: current issues in Study Abroad; featured posts by Study Abroad students; and Gulliver updates, news, and behind-the-scenes peaks. Thanks for reading!

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