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What is Culture Shock ?


It may comfort you to know that no individual is immune to "culture shock".  Anyone traveling to a different culture for the first time - including expatriates who have previously lived in different countries - will inevitably experience "culture shock". It's helpful to know what "culture shock" is and the symptoms that accompany this syndrome. 

Culture shock, is simply, an uneasy feeling of disorientation brought on by the inability to respond appropriately to the social cues of another country which you may be introduced to in daily life situations. Your own values, perceptions and ways of doing an organizing things may seem threatened as you begin to notice the differences between your destination country and home. It is the accumulation of this psychological disorientation which is known as "culture shock". 

Some key symptoms include: 

* Homesickness

* Boredom

* Withdrawal

* Frustration

* Anxiety


Tips / skills to Making your trip a success:

* Knowledge of country, language and cultural aspects. 

* Tolerance of ambiguity and ability to cope with vagueness.

* Open-mindedness and ability to accept diverse viewpoints.

* Low goal and task expectations. No expect to accomplish too much.

* Empathy. Try to see through the eyes of the local people.

* Be non-judgemental. Accept and try to understand differences between cultures.

* A sense of humor and the ability to laugh at yourself for your mistakes. 

* Good communication skills with and interest in the local culture.

* Flexibility and ability to change, adapting to new situations as they arise. 

* Ability to fail, learning from your mistakes and ignorance.

* Accepting the responsibility to adapting and succeeding in the program.

* Follow the old adage: "When in Rome, do as the Romans do". 

* Do not criticize the country or culture. Be positive. Expect differences.

* Use common sense regarding safety issues. Obey laws of the country. 

Tips to Safe Travel / Study Abroad: 

* Use common sense abroad, just as you do at home.

* Do not flash large amounts of cash when paying bills.

* Be sure your credit card is given back after each transaction.

* Conceal your money, credit cards, checks, passport and other valuables.

* Be sure you receive a "claim check" for each peice of luggage you check-in. 

* Do not leave bags unattended in public places. Traveling light will help. 

* Be wary of con artists. They exist around the world. 

* Report any loss of your passport to your nearest Embassy (Consulate). 

* Keep a copy of your passport in a separate place. Helps get a replacement quicker. 

* Avoid dangerous areas. Do not use short cuts, narrow alleys, poorly lit streets. 

* Deal only with authorized agents when changing money, buying tickets, etc. 

* Avoid taking photos of military personnel, police, or any military installations. 

* Book hotel rooms between the 2nd - 7th floors to prevent easy entrance.

* Keep a low profile. Dress and behave conservatively, avoiding flashy dress. 

* Be polite and low-key. Avoid loud conversations and arguments. 

* Do not give out your room number (or address) to persons you do not know.

* Start learning some of the language, so you can obtain help if needed. 

* Contact your Embassy if you get into any trouble. 

Personal Responsibility:

All programs are fully accredited and verified. Participants (students) are expected to arrive on time to check-in and get started attending the program. How quickly you learn and advance in the course(s) is strictly up to you. All students are responsible for attending classes, and studying the material outside of class as well, and take all tests.  Program staff are available there to take care of any questions students have with classes or other issues, and students are expected to "speak up" an talk to the instructor and student office staff.  Thus, be pro-active and talk to staff there about any questions or problems, for they are there to assist you. Please accept (take) "personal responsibility" for all aspects of your participation and behavior while in the program (country). 

Foreign Exchange Rates (Money):

Exchange rates vary daily, and what you often see online is the "wholesale rate" only, not what you get when you buy the currency.  When you buy a foreign currency, the rate you pay depends on when, where, and who you are buying the currency from. You pay the seller's "retail rate" which is higher, for their "margin" (commission / service fees) are included in the exchange price.  Overall, you will get a better rate in the country of the currency. 

Academic Credit:

Students can earn academic credit for completing these study abroad programs.  Upon finishing your courses, you will receive (or request them) transcripts, certificates, or letter of attendance.  If you need an official transcript sent to your school back home, be sure to request them to be sent and provide the exact mailing address.  Also, best to take a copy back home with you as well, and obtain a copy prior to leaving the school. 

It is a good idea to obtain permission from your home school, that you can transfer credit back to your home school upon finishing your studies abroad. Be sure to inform your home school that you will be attending the school directly and provide them with your confirmation letter and the courses you plan to take.  Most U.S. schools require 10 class hours for 1 - quarter (trimester) credit, and 15 hours for 1 - semester credit. Course descriptions are usually posted on the school's website, which you can print and show your home school advisor.  If you have any problem getting permission to attend the school abroad and earn credit, you may need to take your case to "higher administrative levels" such as the Dean of Admissions, Registrars Office, Foreign Language Department Chair person, or even the legal counsel department on campus. Be sure to emphasize that you will receive an official transcript from the school abroad. Also, consider "independent study" and CLEP (College Level Exams) at your home school to get credit. Do not give up so easily, and you should be able to get the credit you deserve.

European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) is based on the students learning process.  Each credit reflects the work done in terms of both class hours and individual study time. Each learning outcome is expressed in terms of credits, with a student workload ranging from 500 - 800 hours for an academic year, and one (1) ECTS Credit generally corresponds to 25 - 30 hrs of work. Overall, the use of ECTS credits together with "outcomes-based qualifications" frameworks, makes study programs more transparent and facilitates the recognition of qualifications (easier to transfer credits). 

Note:  See the "Resources" section for many Links to useful info.

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                   Everyday travelers are the planet's best ambassadors. Travel is humanity's greatest hope.

                                                                      Don George, Global Travel Editor, Lonely Planet

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