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Cultural Adjustment: For Students and Parents

The cultural adaptation process, or “culture shock,” is an inevitable and important part of the study abroad experience. It is the challenge of adapting to new social, economic, and educational systems, as well as to unfamiliar foods, climate, and language.

Cultural adjustment builds and develops important skills, such as:

  • Problem-solving abilities
  • Adaptability
  • Initiative skills
  • Confidence
  • Independence
  • Empathy
  • Greater respect for another culture
  • Appreciation for one’s own culture
  • Characteristics that mold a highly competitive job candidate


The key to coping with cultural adjustment for both students and families is patience.

If you receive a flurry of letters, phone calls, or e-mails during the first weeks of the experience, don’t be alarmed or discouraged if your student seems negative about the host culture or program.

  • Your best response is to be sympathetic and supportive.
  • Remind them to give their feelings of irritation and homesickness some time.
  • Reiterate their long-term goals for the experience and benefits of studying abroad.

However, the Office of Global Programs often receives phone calls from family members who haven’t heard from their children in several days or weeks. After the initial wave of calls home seeking support and a sympathetic ear, your student will adjust to their host culture, make new friends, and gain confidence. Their correspondence may become less frequent as they overcome their initial homesickness.

If you feel that your student is not coping well with cultural adjustment and you have concerns about your student, please contact the Office of Global Programs.

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