Pre-Departure Orientation Adjusting to Your New Environment
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One of the best ways to prepare for your time abroad is to learn about the country where you will be living. Research the culture, news, and current events of the country and local area where you will be staying.
You can learn about your host country using resources like the State Department’s Learn About Your Destination page and the ISOS country guides. Through ISOS, you can also sign up for email alerts that will send you specific information about your country, including airport closures, demonstrations, tips for travelers, and other helpful safety and security information.
You should also get to know the local cultural norms and attitudes of your overseas location. It is critical that you are mindful of gender roles, ethnicity, sexual orientation, race, and different religions within your overseas location, as well as local issues affecting your overseas location and its relationship to the worldwide political environment. Every International SOS country guide includes “cultural tips” which are a useful resource for navigating norms of your abroad location. You can also find great information and questions to consider through the Penn Abroad Diversity & Identity Abroad resources.
When you first arrive abroad, you will probably be very excited by your new surroundings as you meet new people and navigate a new city and community. It is not uncommon, however, for you to begin to feel upset or uncomfortable in your new and unfamiliar surroundings shortly after arrival. This is known as culture shock. Many students experience culture shock during their time abroad.
Some tips for managing cultural shock include:
Participate in local activities or traditions.
Be flexible. Don’t expect things to work the same way they do in the U.S.
Try to recognize your own cultural bias.
Appreciate the difference.
Establish a routine.
Find ways to keep in touch with family and friends.
Although many students overcome culture shock by following the tips above, you may require some additional assistance to help you feel comfortable in your abroad environment. If you find that you are having trouble adjusting to life abroad, or are in a mental health crisis, you can contact Penn's Student Health and Counseling 24/7 for immediate support. Immediate and ongoing routine teletherapy is available through International SOS; this option is recommended especially in the UK and Western Europe that have long wait times for therapy.
As a Penn student, you have a wealth of support and resources available to you before going abroad, while you are abroad, and after you have returned. Read Penn Abroad information on Penn Campus Resources to make sure you are familiar with the resources available to you, and how you may access these while abroad to help ensure you have a meaningful and fulfilling global experience. You can also reach out to your Global Programs Manager at Penn Abroad for additional assistance.