Overcoming Culture Shock During Your Internship Abroad

Definition & Stages

Before we give you tips based on our personal experiences  on how to minimize the effects of culture shock and eventually beat them, we first need to define the term. Essentially, it is the feelings of isolation, confusion and hostility caused from being exposed to a different culture. It is especially strong if you are experiencing the phenomenon by yourself and have no family members or friends for support nearby, while on your internship abroad. Below you can see each of its main stages and characteristics.

1. Honeymoon: This is the moment when you first get exposed to the new culture and find everything about it exciting and new. You observe all of the differences and tend to appreciate how much unlike home everything is.

2. Anxiety: After a while you realize just how alone and helpless you are. You start missing home and the familiar, in general. You feel totally isolated, being around people who speak such an unfamiliar language. You start hating the differences that you previously fell in love with. You start getting annoyed and stressed about everyone and everything.

3. Adjustments: You realize that you cannot continue living like this and that you should start integrating. By this point you start learning more about the new culture and you have spent enough time around its representatives that you have begun getting used to their mentality, behavior and customs. You  start thinking how much your views have changed since before coming here.

4. Acceptance: At this point you have completely adjusted and can continue your life, school and/or work /internship abroad normally. You have embraced certain characteristics of this culture and feel comfortable with yourself in this environment. it has become a home for you.

Keep in mind that everyone experiences these stages differently.

Helpful Tips

All of us here at Internship Provider have had similar experiences in the past and we offer you the following tips, in order for you to handle your culture shock as best as possible.

Probably the most important thing would be not to avoid the differences and not to be afraid of them. Meeting new people is essential - and the more diverse your group of friends, the better. After a while you will realize that at some point you stopped associating them with their respective cultures and that you only regard them as your friends. This would prove to be very useful later in your career. 

Do not only interact with other representatives of your home country because that would slow down your progression and acceptance of the new one. You will find yourself constantly criticizing other, different people and agreeing with each other how "it is not at all like it is back home!" French students undergoing internships in China might get frustrated over how indirect the Chinese way of communication and avoiding conflict is.

However, it is normal to be homesick and we do not discourage you from finding friends from your own culture. There will be times when the unfamiliar will become too much and you will need to take a step back. For this reason we recommend joining a Facebook group with other people of your nationality, who also live where you will travel soon. They will probably be more experienced and will be able to ease you into the new culture by giving you helpful advices.

Another thing to consider is joining a club or participating in side activities, where you would meet new people and engage in more diverse tasks, instead of only being busy with your internship abroad.

Finally, discuss your impressions and thoughts  of the new culture with its own representatives. It can be very beneficial for both parties to get a better insight into each other's way of thinking.

We hope that this will be helpful to some of you who are traveling soon and we wish you the best of luck abroad!

References

Blogs.millersville.edu,. (2016). Culture Shock. Retrieved 2 February 2016, from http://blogs.millersville.edu/globaledeblast/2015/09/11/culture-shock/ 

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