Welcome to the CIE's On-line Study Abroad Orientation.

Culture shock and stress

Be aware that a moderate amount of anxiety and stress is a natural part of intercultural transitions. A new language, different foods, a new lifestyle, beginning classes and even changes in the weather can affect your stress level. This stress is nothing to be afraid of and can easily be dealt with by having a positive attitude and taking good care of yourself emotionally and physically.

Culture shock is defined as: "The feeling of frustration and anxiety which arises when familiar cultural cues are suddenly removed and replaced by new and seemingly bizarre behavior. This is a very normal process that virtually everyone experiences to a more or lesser degree. Just as you will take baggage containing your clothing, you also carry invisible "cultural baggage" when you travel. Cultural baggage contains the values that are important to you and the patterns of behavior that are customary in your culture. The more you know about your personal values and how they are derived from your culture, the better prepared you will be to see and understand the cultural differences you will encounter abroad.

Intercultural communication

Perhaps the major contributor to unease in a foreign environment is the increased difficulty in communicating. You bring your own communication habits, both verbal and non-verbal, that sometimes do not transcend cultural limits. Studies of intercultural communication have shown that the amount of time and energy needed for simple communication increases dramatically as cultural differences increase. Your own gestures and other non-verbal cues can act as hindrances to communication. Your perceptions of any given person or situation can be quite different from the other person's perception.

Task: Watch this Video


Recognize that other cultures use different verbal and non-verbal communication methods. Body language, "personal space", and other non-verbal communication can be very different to what you are used to. Likewise, some cultures are not nearly as frank, sarcastic or confrontational when discussing certain topics. Sometimes things are implied in conversation but not voiced. It is important to remember that differences in communication styles are just that - different. You will be studied and possibly judged by your own communication styles, so avoid making judgments about a person's rudeness until you understand how verbal and non-verbal communication styles differ in your host culture.

Task: Watch this Video


1. Go to the "What's up with Culture?" website
2. Select "Module One", select "Communication Across Cultures, What are they Trying to Say?", then select and read "The Body Speaks"
3. Next select and read "Public and Private Space"
4. Read every "What Happened and Why" story within these 2 sections

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