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Once you arrive to a new country, you will soon discover that many elements in the environment may affect or alter your health. Most likely, you will be eating different foods, living in a different climate, and reacting emotionally in some way to this new experience.
Depending on where you fly to, you may experience jet lag or traveler's stress.
Some helpful ways to counteract jet lag include: getting plenty of rest, eating healthy food, drinking plenty of fluids (particularly juices and water), getting some moderate exercise and wearing loose, comfortable clothing.
Culture shock is a typical phenomenon that happens to most travelers who venture to a new culture and country for an extended period of time.
There are many emotional effects of facing new values, habits, and lifestyles. You may experience confusing emotional highs and lows during your time abroad. You may also feel impatient, bewildered and depressed at times. These are all initial symptoms of culture shock, and may easily be overcome.
Be aware that a moderate amount of anxiety and stress is a natural part of intercultural transitions. A new language, exotic foods, registration, beginning classes, and even changes in the weather can affect your stress level. This stress is nothing to be afraid of and can easily be dealt with by having a positive attitude and taking good care of yourself emotionally and physically.
Learn how to get medical help and how to use your medical insurance before the need arises.
Is there a 911 emergency number and, if so, what services does it access? Who will provide routine medical care, and how can you reach that provider? Ask the program director what steps need to be taken in these situations.
If you require regular medical care for any condition you have, tell those in your host country who can be of assistance. Make sure to notify the program directors, the host family, or proper medical supervisors of your disabilities and special needs also.
Lifestyles in your host country may be different from those at home. Ask about safety issues such as local transportation, security issues of different neighborhoods, traffic patterns, and use of electrical appliances.
Also, many of the experiences and practices you may take for granted in the United States may be perceived and accepted differently in your host country. Find out how this new culture views:
An exciting world awaits you!
No two students studying abroad ever have quite the same experience, even in the same program and country. This same variety is true for students of color and those from U.S. minority ethnic or racial backgrounds.
Reports from past participants vary from those who felt exhilarated by being free of the American context of race relations, to those who experienced different degrees of innocent curiosity about their ethnicity, to those who felt they met both familiar and new types of ostracism and prejudice and had to learn new coping strategies.
Very few minority students conclude that racial or ethnic problems which can be encountered in other countries represent sufficient reasons for not going. On the other hand, they advise knowing what you are getting into and preparing yourself for it. Try to find others on your campus who have studied abroad and who can provide you with some counsel.
It is important to be aware of the laws pertaining to homosexuality in other countries, as well as the general attitudes of the populace toward gay, lesbian, and bisexual members of their community.
The countries you visit may be more, or may be less, liberated (on a general U.S. scale of values) in these regards, but will in all cases be at least somewhat unique. Moreover, whatever the general rule, there will always be pockets of difference and personal idiosyncrasies. Country specific information is often available from campus offices, personnel, and student groups. You should certainly talk with other students who have been where you will be.
For information on issues and resources pertaining to gay, lesbian, and bisexual travel, you also may want to consult publications available in some bookstores and libraries (e.g. CIEE Identity: Sexual & Gender Expression Abroad). Additional resources and support about LGTBQ issues abroad can be found at the IES Abroad website.
As described in the beginning, cultural adjustment is a continuous, on-going process. It never stops, and it varies from one individual to another and from one culture to another.
Your own situation may require you to confront not only differences in your new culture but it may also force you to take a good look at your own cultural values and practices. The concept of adjustment implies change. In your case, you will be moving from your American culture to one overseas. The nature of your adjustment depends on the nature of the differences between your original culture and the new one and on the objectives you seek to complete in the new culture. The concept of adjustment assumes that you already have well-established sets of behaviors for operating in your own culture.
Remember you are a representative of Mesa Community College and the United States while participating in a study abroad program. Your ability to successfully interact with host families, program participants, and foreign nationals is a direct reflection on your fellow travelers and other Americans overseas. Ask questions of your Program Director and other participants to learn as much as possible about your destination.
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