Going abroad is an exciting and rewarding experience. As an international intern, you’ll be immersed in a completely new culture, and in some cases a new language. Before you head off for your life-changing experience, it’s important to understand how to handle culture shock.
Culture Shock is a state of disorientation that can happen when you become immersed in a culture very different from your own. You might experience frustration, anxiety, and confusion, and feel isolated or sad. It’s important to understand that this is a very normal reaction when you encounter a new environment and that many travelers have the exact same experience.
Here are 7 tips on how to handle culture shock during your international internship:
1. Be Present
If you spend all of your time browsing Facebook, you’ll miss out on what’s going on around you! Of course, it’s very important to keep in touch with your friends and family at home too. Find a good balance! Try not to worry about what you’re missing out on at home. Focus more on your experiences than your friends’ Instagram stories.
2. Stay Active
When you first move abroad, it’s important to keep busy! Consider joining a club or team, and try to attend as many of the organized meetups as possible, as this is a great way to meet people. Many cities offer free tours, and have museums that focus on the local culture and history. Get out and explore, and you’ll quickly start to feel more at home.
3. Talk About It
When you’re in a new country and culture, sometimes it’s easy to forget that other people are going through the same experience. It’s important to reach out to your roommates, classmates or fellow interns, as they are a great resource for overcoming culture shock and homesickness.
As an intern abroad with The Intern Group, you’ll also have access to TalkSpace, which is completely anonymous online support from a licensed therapist. Because jumping headfirst into a new culture can be stressful, TalkSpace provides an additional level of support. Talking through all the emotions is an excellent way to handle culture shock.
4. Build A Support Network
No matter where you are in the world, it’s important to have a group of friends. The connections you make while abroad will stay with you for a lifetime, so make sure you don’t get so focused on your internship that you forget to meet people. A strong network of friends is a resource to help you handle culture shock. Find people that you trust and enjoy spending time with. If they are also international you’ll be able to bond over your shared experiences, and if they’re local, you’ll have a great resource for travel and learning.
5. Share Your Experiences
A great way to think through and process your experiences is to share them with others. Many international students and travelers choose to keep a personal broad while abroad, where they document their time. Blogging is a great way to force yourself to sit down and reflect on your experiences, challenges and goals. As a bonus, you’ll be able to go back later and remember all of the things you did!
6. Learn The Local Language
One of the most difficult barriers to overcome as an intern abroad can be language. Whether you studied a foreign language in school or not, being fully immersed is a unique experience. Knowing a bit of the local language will help you to feel more independent and comfortable in your destination. Try to learn a bit before you arrive, and make an effort to pick it up while you’re there. Not only will this help you navigate your new environment, but everyone around you will appreciate your effort to know the culture.
As an international traveler your mantra should be “know before you go.” Make sure to do enough research about your destination to prepare yourself for the main differences between there and your home country. The more prepared you are, the better you’ll be able to handle culture shock of living in a new place.
Apply now for an internship abroad and kickstart your international career!
1. Travel, by Rosanetur, CC 2.0
2. Overlooking Edinburgh, UI International Programs, CC 2.0
3. The Hungry Hungry Caterpillars (or hikers??), by UI International Programs, CC 2.0