Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Welcome to Study Abroad and Aix en Provence!

This page is designed for the university students who are attending one of the many study abroad programs here in Aix en Provence. Welcome to Aix!

Starting in August 2015 this site will offer resources and information as well as a forum for both questions and answers during your study abroad experience.

Looking forward to meeting you all in August!

If you are here for the summer programs, take a few moments to browse around the site for existing resources and don't hesitate to email me if questions arise!  leslie13100[at]

Warm regards,

10 Tips for Coping with Cultural Adjustment

• Understand symptoms and recognize signs of "culture shock".

• Realize that some degree of discomfort and stress is natural in a cross-cultural experience.

• Recognize that your reactions are often emotional and not always (or easily) subject to rational control.

• Gather information so at least the cultural differences will seem understandable, if not natural. Look below the surface for the meaning of practices different from your own.

• Look for the logical reasons behind host culture patterns. They fit the culture you are visiting - find out how and why!

• Relax your grip on your normal culture and try to cheerfully adapt to new rules and roles.

• Don't give in to the temptation to disparage what you do not like or understand.

• Identify a support network among host nationals, teachers, fellow students, etc. (Use it, but don't rely upon this network exclusively.)

• Understand that any cultural clash you may experience will likely be temporary.

• Give yourself "quiet time" and some private space - and don't be too tough on yourself when things are not going perfectly...or as you expected.

Stay curious!

Navigating Cultural Adjustment

Simply defined, culture shock is the tension that results when there is a conflict and/or change involving core values. It is a normal response that can arise when you explore beyond the boundaries of you own culture and bump into differences that 1) may not make sense to your way of thinking and behaving and/or 2) cause you to feel an unfamiliar sense of tension or vulnerability.

Common symptoms of culture shock include:

• A sense of sadness, loneliness or melancholy

• Preoccupation with health

• Aches, pains and allergies 

• Insomnia, desire to sleep too much or too little

• Changes in temperament, depression, feeling vulnerable or powerless

• Anger, irritability, resentment, unwillingness to interact with others.

• Identifying with home culture or idealizing home culture.

• A sense of the loss of identity.

• A feeling of being overwhelmed as you try hard to absorb everything in the new culture or country.

• Unable to solve simple problems.

• Lack of confidence.

If you experience one or more of these symptoms, it is a normal by-product in the process of making a cultural adjustment. Be patient with yourself - and your host culture. Suspend criticism and judgement and get curious instead about why certain practices exist in your new culture.

Allowing yourself to be changed as you navigate your host culture can result in developing new practices, new strengths and a new confidence. If the tension that occurs normally in the process begins to get in the way of a successful integration, seek support to guide you through to an outcome for which you can be proud. 

As your time abroad comes to an end, you are likely to realize that you discovered as much (or more!) about yourself as you did about the culture which you called 'home' for a time...and you take back with you one of the richest experiences of your life.