Tips (Packing, Budgeting, Health, Culture shock, You are not alone)
Tips for education abroad
The leave-half-behind rule. You are going to have to carry whatever you pack by yourself, so leave behind half of what you think you need. You will be limited to two pieces of checked luggage and one carry-on bag on the flight, and even that is more than you can comfortably carry. Large, hard-sided suitcases are tough to carry and even more difficult to store. USE DUFFEL BAGS or a good, internal frame BACKPACK. Closet space will not be as generous as what you are used to, so even if you can get it there, you won't necessarily know where to put it.
You'll stretch your budget if you do the following:
- Make daily and weekly budgets and stick to them.
- Prepare your own food. It's cheaper than eating out. If you do eat out, eat your main meal at noon, rather than in the evening.
- Plan your activities around free, inexpensive and discounted events.
- Take care of your belongings and safeguard your travelers checks, cash and passport.
- Loss from carelessness or theft is hard enough to bear at any time, but it is even more distressing abroad. Pickpocketing is common, particularly in spots frequented by tourists. Write down the numbers of your travelers checks and make a photocopy of the document page of your passport, and keep these in a separate place in case the originals are lost or stolen.
- With a little realistic planning, you won't be caught by surprise later on.
If you’re going to do education abroad or work abroad, you’ve got to consider your health. From navigating a new health care system to overcoming culture shock to figuring out where to buy a cold remedy, you’ll have new things to think about.
Thus, before you leave, address your health situation honestly and take necessary actions to make sure that you will be in good stance once you are at your destination. Also, a visit to your physician, gynecologist, and dentist is a must to ensure you leave healthy—and prevent emergencies abroad. Get immunizations and hepatitis protection if needed for the region you’re traveling to. Check whether medications and medical supplies are available in your host country; if not, carry a supply with you. Pack copies of all medical records and prescriptions, including for eyeglasses. If you think you’ll need regular medical care abroad, take along a letter of introduction from your doctor at home that includes details of your medical treatment.
It is also important to verify your health insurance coverage. It is something to consider when choosing a program: some education abroad packages include health insurance as part of the program fee and some do not. Check your regular policy to see what coverage it provides for medical services abroad—and whether your plan pays the provider in your host country directly, or you must pay yourself and seek reimbursement later.
What is culture shock? It is the mental, physical and emotional adjustment to living in a new environment. It is the coming to terms with different ways of approaching everyday living–everything from fundamental philosophical assumptions (one's worldview) to daily chores.
Anyone living in a new environment long enough cannot ignore the differences. They become frustrating, and possibly infuriating, until recognizable patterns emerge and an understanding of why things are done differently develops.
Culture shock is different for everyone, but a common pattern can be charted on a U-shaped curve that encompasses five separate phases: fun, fright, flight, fight and fun. Typically, when you first arrive in your host country, everything is wonderful. You are excited that you have arrived, finally seeing first-hand all those places that previously were just one-dimensional pictures. This is the 'fun' stage.
After awhile, all those wonderful, cute customs become aggravating. There is no point to them. You think your own culture's ways are much better, more efficient, and more sensible. While your host country's people seem friendly at first, you feel it is just superficial warmth, not a real interest in establishing a friendship. You begin to miss your family and friends. This is the 'fright' stage.
Then it gets worse. You're really homesick. You can't find anything good about your host country. Everything stinks. You are convinced that nothing beats your home country, and you remember how good you had it at home. You may even come to believe that all your problems will go away if you can just pack up and go home. This is the 'flight' stage. It's serious, but usually temporary.
You give yourself a pep talk and decide to stick it out awhile longer. This experience deserves a fair chance. You become a bit more active in the clubs you joined earlier. You make more of an effort to get to know the people on your dorm floor. You decide to be less furious with those stupid policies (like post offices and stores that close early). Now you are into the 'fight' stage.
You begin to like the people on your residence hall floor. In fact, those acquaintances are more like friends. They tell you why those stupid policies are the way they are. In fact, those policies make sense and don't seem too stupid. You are no longer inconvenienced by them and have trouble understanding why they bothered you so much. You suddenly realize you like it there and want to stay forever. You have arrived at the fifth and final stage — and have made it through the emotional roller coaster ride of culture shock.
Possible Symptoms of Culture Shock
Sometimes people don't realize when they are suffering from culture shock or they may experience some of the symptoms during different times and in varying degrees. This confusion can be the result of looking at several symptoms as isolated problems rather than as related components of a single affliction. Some signs which you may notice that could indicate culture shock are:
- Withdrawal (spending too much time in your room, only seeing other U.S. students, avoiding your host family)
- Negative feelings and stereotyping of nationals
- Inability to concentrate
- Excessive sleep or insomnia
- Compulsive eating or drinking
- Lack of appetite
- Crying uncontrollably or outbursts of anger
- Physical ailments, such as frequent headaches or stomachaches
Dealing with Culture Shock
There are ways to prepare for, and thereby lessen the extremes of, culture shock. First, know that you will experience some degree of culture shock (even if you don't believe it now). Everyone does. Carefully read the process outlined so that you will recognize the symptoms and feelings. Most importantly, understand that those frustrating feelings will pass.
Second, expect things to be different. Some differences will be quite obvious, others less so. You are probably prepared for the major cultural differences, such as religious and socio-economic differences. It is the apparently trivial differences that will become the most aggravating. Try not to allow yourself to blow them out of proportion.
Third, don't label differences as "good" or "bad." Instead of judging what you see as better or worse than what you know in your country, try to focus on the differences and ask why they exist.
Fourth, maintain the ability to laugh at your mistakes. It will take some time to adapt to the point where you can maneuver without making cultural missteps. After all, it took quite a bit of training by your parents and family and effort on your part to be comfortable in your own culture!
Finally, you don't have to "do as the Romans do" and accept all the differences. You will like some of your host country's ways and incorporate them into your daily routine. Other ways won't fit your values or outlook, and you will decide that they are not appropriate for you. You are free to make choices, and doing so is perfectly acceptable.
You are Not Alone:
Remember that everyone else on your program will experience similar feelings to yours. Don't hesitate to look to them for moral and emotional support. In addition, the staff of both your host institution's international student office and our offices abroad can help you if you're feeling particularly stressed or anxious. Please seek them out.