Adjusting to a New Life

NU Students AbroadIt can take some time for you to feel acclimated to your new surroundings. Below is some guidance on how to expedite that acclimation process.

Surviving Jet Lag

  • Get adequate rest the nights before your journey. Beginning a trip sleep deprived will only make jet lag worse. Also, consider the time change adjustments you will need to make and if you will need to sleep on the plane or stay awake.
  • Avoid last minute rush the day of departure. Do everything early and schedule your flight connections to make comfortable changes of planes.
  • Do not overpack in case you are forced to carry your own luggage.

  • Wear loose-fitting clothes to give the skin a chance to breathe freely and to be comfortable.
  • Drink liquids during flight in order to prevent dehydration, a common occurrence on long flights.
  • Take good reading material such as a guidebook geared to your destination.

  • Don't over-exert your body when you first arrive. If you intend to do any sightseeing the day of arrival, you should plan to rest for a few hours before beginning.
  • Try to maintain as normal a schedule as possible for your new time zone in order to reset your body clock. Go to bed at a regular hour for your destination.
  • Take care of your body and realize it will take a few days for your body to adjust so plan accordingly.

Living with a Host Family

  • Respect family and its own individual customs.
  • Try to integrate, even though you might be paying to stay at their home. If you stay with a family, they can be a major fountain for knowledge about the language and/or culture. It's also nice to know that you have a family in your host country.
  • Do not bring alcoholic beverages into the home.
  • Do not smoke in the home without permission.
  • Drug use is absolutely prohibited.
  • Remember that utilities abroad are very expensive. Your host family will frown on the "overuse" of hair dryers and curling irons. Turn off lights and radios every time you leave a room.
  • Tell the family in advance when you will not be home for a meal.
  • Talk with them even though you do not know the language well. This is a good way to learn and besides, coming home and hiding in your room will be viewed as antisocial.
  • When you come in late at night be very quiet!
  • Respect the family policy for phone use.
  • If there are other Americans living in your house, do not talk English in front of the family. It is considered rude. Think how you feel when you cannot understand what they are saying.
  • Be open to a new culture and experience new things.
  • Bring a host gift. Something local to your hometown is usually the perfect idea.

Culture Shock

Culture shock is an uneasy feeling of disorientation brought on by inabilities to respond appropriately to the social cues of another country which you may be introduced to in daily life situations. Your own values, perceptions and ways of doing things may seem threatened as you begin to notice the differences between your destination country and your home. Key symptoms of culture shock include homesickness, boredom, withdrawal, frustration and anxiety, depression, irritability, stereotyping of host nationals and hostility toward other nations.

Culture shock and homesickness are a very real phenomena. Even if you think you are the type of person who will not feel homesick or culture shock, you may be wrong. The truth is that almost anyone who studies or lives abroad experience both of these at some time. It is completely natural. Fortunately, these feelings are only temporary. The best way to combat them is to keep a positive attitude and understand them before you go.

  • Be prepared. Learn as much as you can about the host culture before going.
  • Look for logical reasons behind everything in the host culture that seems different.
  • Resist looking down upon or making jokes about the host culture and to avoid others who take part in such derogatory remarks.
  • Make friends with a host national. It always helps to share your feelings with someone.
  • Have confidence in yourself and in the good will of the people of your host country.

Your study abroad experience will allow you to meet many new people that you otherwise may not have. This is a great opportunity to learn about other cultures and beliefs. No matter where you go, there will always be Americans. Try to associate with people from other countries or even other parts of America. You did not travel thousands of miles to only spend time with Americans.