Studying abroad, whether it be for a month or an entire semester, is one of the best experiences a student can have (in my opinion, at least). There is so much to be learned about other places, cultures and ourselves. One of the only downfalls of studying abroad is the adjustment period between your arrival and once you really get both of your feet on the ground. People may throw around the term "culture shock" here and there, and you may find yourself asking what is culture shock? And is that what you are feeling? Here is all you can expect and need to know about culture shock when studying abroad.

What is Culture Shock?

Casey Irwin

Whether it's your first time out of the country or the last continent on your bucket list, you may feel some uneasiness when adjusting to a new lifestyle in a new country. This is culture shock.

"Deeper cultural differences in mindset, customs, and interpersonal interaction" can cause you to feel like you cannot change your ways or live like a local at all, according to The defined stages of adjusting to a new country are a bit different depending on who you talk to. Princeton's Office of International Programs categorizes four phases as the honeymoon, culture shock, adjustment, and feeling at home. During the culture shock stages, even the smallest differences in living situations can feel like the end of the world.

Everything from diet to language to public transportation, can highlight the cultural differences at hand. This adds stress to your study abroad experience, turning everything into a shock, as the term suggests.

Is it The Same For Everyone?

wine, beer
Casey Irwin

Some people may wonder what culture shock is even after they've been abroad, simply because they did not deal with it. Their upbringing may have prepared them differently for the new cultural experience, or they simply dealt with everything easily for no specific reason.

During my own experience in Spain, a few small details, from the shower temperature to not understanding my host mom were difficult during those first few days. A few of my classmates took it even harder while some of them were fine the entire time.

How Could it Change My Appetite? 

beef, potato, chicken
Casey Irwin

One of the biggest shocks may be the food that is served or how it is served. The shock of living with a host family, possibly with a parent figure cooking all of your food, can add to your stress levels. Depending on where you go, you may be eating things that you have never had before, or you may not even know what you are eating at all. Odds are you've done your research to prepare for what's on the menu, but the flavors themselves are hard to predict. 

You know your body and whether you are a stress eater. Your habits probably won't change because culture shock is essentially stress, so keep that in mind as you plan for your travels.

It is Preventable?

wine, water
Casey Irwin

There is no way of knowing to what degree you will experience culture shock, if at all. One of the easiest ways to prepare for how you may feel is to educate yourself.  Read up on culture shock itself and the country that you will be living in. The more that you know what to expect, the less of an adjustment everything will be. 

What Should I Do If I Feel It?

beer, coffee, tea, cake, pizza
Casey Irwin

From culture shock to exciting adventures, take your study abroad trip one day at a time. If you feel like something is off or everything seems to stress you out, remember that it is normal. All you can do is acknowledge the differences in order to eventually adjust to a point where you may even feel like a local.

Don't let culture shock hold you back, especially when it comes to eating new foods. Take some time to call your family if you need to, but other than that, one of the best things you can do is plunge out of your comfort zone and keep an open mind. Culture shock is temporary, but study abroad memories are forever.