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Active Cultural Learning

Be Prepared to be an Active Learner

Even after your massive preparatory study on your host culture, you've discovered that it's the actual cultural confrontation when you step into your new environment that brings about the physical and emotional reactions characteristic of "culture shock." Usually, culture shock is caused by the gradual accumulation of anxiety, frustration, and confusion from living in an unfamiliar environment. While not everyone experiences some kind of isolated event or “shock,” everyone does go through some stages of adjustment to their new environment.
Stage 1: Cultural Euphoria
At the start of your study abroad there is an initial excitement about being in a new culture.This is often called the “honeymoon stage.” Everything is new and wonderful, and you are eager to explore it all.
Stage 2: Cultural Confrontation
The initial excitement you felt when you arrived diminishes and the process of cultural adjustment begins.This stage is typically characterized by confusion and frustration and, as such, is the most difficult stage. Your feelings can shift quickly from very positive to very negative.
Stage 3: Cultural Adjustment
This stage represents the transition out of culture shock into significant cultural adjustment. You feel increasingly comfortable and competent in the culture, and these feelings prevail over the times you have felt frustrated or out of place.
Stage 4: Cultural Adaptation
You have reached a stage where you have a great deal of confidence in your ability to communicate and interact effectively.  Navigating your environment is a new skill that you feel comfortable with. You have a deeper understanding of the influence that culture has in people's lives. You have acquired considerable cultural knowledge, but you realize that there is still a vast amount that you still don't know or understand. 

Being an Active Participant in Your Learning

Learn on-site during your program:
  • Note how you feel about the experience 
  • Identify the skills you are developing

Reflect on what you have learned:
  • Compare what you had expected with what you actually did
  • Identify your impressions of your international experience
  • Consider how your semester abroad can lead to other opportunities

Keep a Journal/Blog
We encourage you to think, reflect, and write about your time abroad.  Writing about this experience will provide you with:
  • Factual events that you witnessed/experienced
  • Your interpretations of your experiences abroad
  • A creative outlet for what you're experiencing and interpreting
  • A summary of what you have learned
  • Connections between your experiences and your academic interests and work/life choices
  • A good way to share your experiences with your friends and family when you return to the States