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Mentor Advice


How do you adapt to a new culture when abroad?

4 Replies from Mentors

  • mentor picture Ana Campos
    Ana Campos
    Associate Director, Office of Undergraduate Student Housing
    University of Chicago
    I think the easiest way to do so is to be open to everything about it, to not judge it, and to not...
    I think the easiest way to do so is to be open to everything about it, to not judge it, and to not compare it with what you are accustomed to. Whatever the traditions, customs, and social mores of the people that you are now living with, you are best off observing them, and incorporating those that you are able to in your every day interactions as soon as possible, rather than complaining about them or resisting them. For instance, if you are a woman visiting a country where women are subservient and do not look men in the eye. As much as that may feel “wrong” or just plain difficult to do for some from the western tradition, your transition into the culture will be smoother and you will gain more from the experience if you can do it out of respect for their culture and ways, rather than feeling like you are somehow compromising your own belief system. Look at it from their perspective - their lens - not your own. Exerting this extra energy to learn and observe can result in culture shock. I think the best way to handle those feelings is to spend some time with your fellow compatriots, if there are some available and it is possible, from time to time so that you are not always feeling like the odd one out in the beginning. Spending time with people where you do not have to exert the extra energy to remember what are new traditions and ways of behaving will re-energize you.
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