Meet Grace! She studied abroad with us in Spring 2016 from Columbia College Chicago and she knows that moving to another country is exciting, challenging, and even scary at times.  It’s new and completely different than anything you have ever experienced.  No matter how many times you tell yourself that, you may not realize just how true that really is until you arrive.  Culture shock is the real deal and can be very stressful to manage at first, but with a few tips and tricks you will be strutting down every street like local (no map needed). 

  • Study Up Before You Go

It’s always a good idea to read up about your new home-away-from-home.  Read from a variety of source and cover the culture, history, edict, daily life, weather, and excursions.

  • Settle In

Settle in and make your new apartment, dorm, or room feel like you.  Give a designated space, whether it is your bed, your desk, or your closet, the love and attention it needs to make it feel homey and like your own comfort zone.  This gives you time to get your bearings and learn the campus.
(Most important and comforting tip to settling in, find your nearest grocery store or mini mart!  Food is the most essential and you will spend a lot of time frequenting them so it is always a comfort to know the nearest ones.)

  • University Nights and Excursions

No ideas on how to meet other students or how to start exploring your new campus?  No worries, your uni has you covered.  Almost every university will have schedule nights out to meet other study abroad students and students on campus so you can have a few schedule events on your calendar as soon as you arrive.  They occasionally will also have planned excursion so you can see the most of your new city and country.  Never be afraid to ask their study abroad office for ideas!

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  • Look Up Top Attractions / Hidden Gems

Look up the top attractions in your city (yep, you can bet on them being touristy and crowded!) and put them in order of the most important to you and what you want to see first.  Then take on a little bit everyday and start exploring the city.  Then look up hidden gems and local favorites.  These are going to be less touristy, harder to find, and worth every second.

  • Get Out Everyday

Make sure you get out everyday.  Even if it is just to take a walk around the block.  Never let a day go by without exploring the city that you are in for a short period of time.  It goes by faster than you think.  And the best part about going out on daily walking adventures is they are free and you always find the best little finds by wandering.

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  • Food is a Familiar Friend

When in doubt, food is food is one of the best comforts known to man.  When you are feeling the blues and missing home, splurge a little and go to a restaurant that has some of your hometown favorites or a cheesy American fast food restaurant.  It’s worth it every once in a while to have a little taste of home to squash the culture shock bug.

  • Family and Friends for the Win

And of course, nothing beats a good call home.  With WiFi it is now easier than ever to stay connected abroad and not feel to far away.  Sometimes the best way to break the culture shock is just to call home and talk about your day.

So whether you are going abroad for a semester, moving abroad for a longer period of time, or just a vacation for a shorter period of time, don’t let culture shock get you down!  Use these tricks to your advantage and conquer culture shock like a boss to have the best experience abroad possible.

You can find this blog post, among many others about Grace’s study abroad experience at Westminster on her personal blog here.

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