No matter where you going to study abroad, you can do a few things to help ease the inevitable culture shock that awaits. You can’t avoid it completely, and you’ll have moments that range from hilarious to bizarre to upsetting. You’ll be frustrated and disappointed at times, but you’ll also be surprised and delighted at all the new things you discover while studying abroad, including your own strength. The internet is an incredible resource. Not long ago, students had a very limited preview of the places they went to study overseas. But today, you can surf your way there online before you actually go and get a comprehensive preview of what awaits. Here are a few things to check before you go to minimize the frustrating and disappointing moments.
- Use Google Maps to explore. With this amazing tool, you can get familiar with shop fronts and the general lay of the land. Remember, things change and what you see on Google Maps might not be precisely what awaits you.
- Search online to find basic stores. Locate a large grocery store and at least one chemist or pharmacy near where you will be staying, and check their opening hours.
- If you use any over the counter medications regularly, check on their availability there. Can you get them over the counter or will you need a prescription? Is the medication approved in that country or would bringing your own be illegal? Can your regular doctor recommend a substitute you can get there?
- Watch the weather online. If you start paying attention a couple of weeks before you go, you can be well prepared and arrive wearing appropriate clothes. If you leave it until the last minute, you might not know if a large storm has hit before you arrive.
- Follow the university you will attend on social media. This way, you will know what is happening and have a better understanding of events and groups.
- Check for holidays, bank holidays and other special events and note them in your own diary. It is a very surreal feeling to find everything closed when you have no idea it’s a special day.
- See if there is any kind of online group where you can connect with your future classmates before you arrive. Of course, there is a limit to how well you can get to know anyone online, but if it is an official group where the university controls access, you can at least get a sense of who you will meet.
Don’t worry too much about getting to know everything in advance. Part of the fun is the adventure of discovering a new culture as you go. But knowing some basics means you can avoid most of the unhappy surprises, such as finding out that the local chemist is closed earlier than you expect when you feel unwell. You can’t avoid culture shock, but you can prepare for it. If you feel more tired than usual upon arrival, that’s normal. You’re taking in so much new information that your body needs extra rest to process it all. Give yourself a break, remember not to take the frustrations too seriously, and enjoy yourself.