Cultural Shock and the Importance of Mental Preparation

 In Study In The USA

Wherever you are going to study abroad, it’s important to know that you’ll experience some discomfort and this is why it’s important you know how to deal with culture shock.  Culture shock is a very real thing, as our E-Guide section on the subject will explain, but it is possible to overcome with mental preparation and the right mindset.

For international students in the USA, the beginning of the journey is all about leaving home to travel abroad and expand your world.  The idea of solo travel is alluring rather than alarming. You possibly won’t experience any travel anxiety – or perhaps they are just a little mixed up with excitement in those butterflies you have in your stomach!  This journey means real independence for the first time and discovering that big, wide world out there. You are about to learn about the culture, experience another way of life and get to know who you are as an individual.

What is Mental Preparation?

All this enthusiasm and eagerness may prevent you from considering just how much it will affect your life, and by that we mean the initial culture shock you may experience. You may face all sorts of unexpected challenges will affect your sense of well-being. This is where the importance of mental preparation comes in.  The more you know how to deal with the unexpected and what can make cultural adaptation easier, the better your experience as an international student abroad will be.

Mental preparation consists of knowing what to expect and being prepared for whatever you are faced with which you did not expect. Here are five great tips to approaching your time abroad equip you mentally to make the most of your experience.

  1. It is tough to say good-bye, but it only hits you once you have bid your farewells and are on your way. The pain of saying goodbye and missing people is made easier by maintaining regular contact with friends and family back home.
  2. Learn the basics of the language of your native country. At least, learn the few words that help you make the first week run as smoothly as possible!
  3. While there is a lot of excitement and reward ahead, expect the unexpected! Studying abroad and meeting people with different ways of behaving go hand in hand. Be observant of this and detached rather than inpatient and intolerant. Remember that these same people are experiencing your ways with just the same amount of bewilderment!
  4. Locals as well as fellow students will ask you questions about you and your home country. Inform yourself thoroughly about your home country through newspapers, discussion and other media before you go.
  5. Also, inform yourself as much as you can about where you are going – the country, the city, the neighborhood in which you will be living. Find out a little about your host family if this is what you have chosen.

In another blog extract from our e-Guides, we discuss these and other ways to make your transition easier.  However, if these five cardinal rules of mental preparation for study abroad are followed, the rest will come naturally. If you approach your study abroad experience with the right mindset, which includes an open mind, it will, your experience will give you a different and more sophisticated perspective of the world, one which will enrich all your future experiences.

Her Study Abroad Clothes Packing ListThere’s more in our e-Guides about how to make your study abroad experience all it can possibly be. Download here!

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