Studying Abroad – Knowing the Culture

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 9,558
    Travis Stalcup with IES Abroad discusses how to adjust to another culture while sharing your own when you are studying abroad.

    Travis Stalcup: Hi! I'm Travis Stalcup with IES Abroad. Today I'm talking about how to prepare for a semester abroad and I'm going to talk about how to adjust to another culture while sharing your own.

    A great benefit of studying abroad is experiencing different values, norms and customs and learning to see life from different perspectives. Other cultures have fundamentally different ways of approaching life and its problems. By better understanding your own culture and the new culture, these differences can begin to make more sense and you can gain more from your semester abroad.

    There are several ways that you can better understand the culture of your host country. One is to observe and interpret. Record day-to-day observations of your experiences and surroundings, from dinner conversations to people you see on the street. Take time to sit and observe how people interact in cafes, theatres, or public-places or interview five or six host country nationals.

    Another way to learn about your own cultural values and those of your host country is to record your reactions in a journal or blog. Recording an experience of the post office or a restaurant will help you analyze your own cultural values. Rereading them later in your stay can demonstrate to you, how much you have grown and also be the source of a good life. Think about your own actions from a new perspective.

    It's important to learn the main cultural differences of your host country and to respect them. Each country has a unique set of social norms and customs. By learning what these are before you go, you'll be more prepared for any changes you might face in daily life and also more prepared to comfortably interact with local residents. You might also face cultural differences in the classroom.

    When preparing to study abroad, research the local university system. Find out what types of academic differences you might encounter there. Some cultures place great value on the relationship between student and professor in a formal classroom settingWhile others may adhere to a less structured form of education, by learning what you can expect in the classroom, you prepare yourself to succeed both academically and culturally.

    Learning about cultural differences is one of the main benefits of studying abroad and I hope I've given you some thoughts on how to adjust to a new culture and to share your own as well.