While Overseas

There are certain concerns common to all or most travelers once they arrive at their destinations. These include functioning effectively in a foreign country, culture shock, homesickness, safety, and how to end your time abroad well. This section of the site will explore these concerns and suggest some possible remedies or coping strategies.

You’ve arrived in foreign country. You know little, if any, of the local language or culture. What is the best approach to this new situation?  Should you continue to behave as you would at home? Should you assume that your previous way of communicating and doing things is best or are there ways in which you need to adapt in order to get the most out of your experience? Here’s one article which might help.

Whether or not they experience all or some of the symptoms of culture shock many travelers do experience some form of homesickness, especially if they have not traveled out of the country before. Recognizing it as a normal part of travel and learning some coping strategies can prevent homesickness from spoiling your overseas experience

Another major concern which travelers are likely to have is safety. When you enter an unfamiliar environment, it is not always easy to gauge which activities, people, or places are safe. For some recommendations on safety overseas, please refer to the material here.

Culture Shock

Culture shock is a multi-stage process which often accompanies adjustment to a new environment and an unfamiliar culture. It is process you are more likely to experience if you spend longer periods overseas. One of the crucial elements in overcoming the difficulties of culture shock is being aware of what it is and how it may affect your study abroad experience. For a definition of culture shock and details of the stages it is likely to occur in, please link to the material below.

Culture Shock 

Sociologists define Culture shock as “an experience a person may have when one moves to a cultural  environment which is different from one's own; it is also the personal disorientation a person may feel  when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, a move  between social environments, or simply transition to another type of life.” (Wikipedia) 

Though it can be one of the hardest parts of traveling, culture shock is just as integral to the experience as food, people and scenery. By recognizing it for what it is and finding ways to cope, you can prevent  culture shock from ruining an otherwise fantastic experience abroad. The topic is being raised at this  point, just to help prepare you to cope with what is an entirely natural facet of travel abroad. 

1. The Honeymoon Stage 

The first stage of culture shock is often overwhelmingly positive during which travelers become  infatuated with the language, people and food in their new surroundings. At this stage, the trip or move  seems like the greatest decision ever made, an exciting adventure to stay on forever. 

On short trips, the honeymoon phase may take over the entire experience as the later effects of culture  shock don’t have time to set in. On longer trips, the honeymoon stage will usually phase out eventually. 

2. The Frustration Stage 

Frustration may be the most difficult stage of culture shock and is probably familiar to anyone who has  lived abroad or who travels frequently. At this stage, the fatigue of not understanding gestures, signs  and the language sets in and miscommunications may be happening frequently. Small things — losing  keys, missing the bus or not easily being able to order food in a restaurant — may trigger frustration.  And while frustration comes and goes, it’s a natural reaction for people spending extended time in new  countries. 

Bouts of depression or homesickness and feelings of longing to go home where things are familiar are all  common during the frustration stage.  

3. The Adjustment Stage  

Frustrations are often subdued as travelers begin to feel more familiar and comfortable with the  cultures, people, food and languages of new environments. Navigation becomes easier, friends and  communities of support are established and details of local languages may become more recognizable  during the adjustment stage. 

4. The Acceptance Stage  

Generally — though sometimes after weeks, months or years after wrestling with the emotional stages  outlined above — the final stage of culture shock is acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean that new  cultures or environments are completely understood, rather it signifies realization that complete  understanding isn’t necessary to function and thrive in the new surroundings. During the acceptance  stage, travelers have the familiarity and are able to draw together the resources they need to feel at  ease. (

Here’s one set of recommendations for overcoming culture shock: 

1. Stop thinking about home. (Communicaid) Avoid constant comparisons with home. It won’t help you to settle in. 

2. Meet the right kind of people. Make friends with positive-minded people. Try to avoid people who are critical of your new home. 

3. Get active! Start a new hobby or pastime which isn’t possible back home. 

4. Stay in touch! Keep in regular contact with home, family and friends. 

5. Share. Share your own culture with your new friends and neighbors. 

6. Don’t be shy! Communicate your feelings. Tell friends, colleagues and loved ones how you feel. 

7. Travel!

Travel and see new places that will make you appreciate your new home country. This is a once in a  lifetime experience – enjoy it! Go trekking, explore ruins, attend cooking classes, learn the language and,  most importantly, don’t look back and say what if… 

On Returning Home

Finally, your time abroad is winding down and you want to take a few more pictures, visit places you still haven’t seen, say farewell to friends and pack for home, all while you are dealing with final exams and papers. You may start to reflect of what you’ve accomplished and where you have been. You may also feel sad about leaving the place you’ve just begun to feel used to! What is the best way to bring your study abroad to an end. For some suggestions see this article from

For more varied resources on return and re-entry you can also try one the resources listed by Middlebury College