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Pam Hendrix Center for Education Abroad

Your Education Abroad


Congratulations! You accomplished your goal of making it abroad! Now be sure to make the most of your experience while you are there. Below are some things to consider:

Build Cultural Awareness

  • Break out of your comfort zone with small, manageable steps:
    • Rely less on your phone and instead ask a local for assistance.
    • Read a book with a protagonist from your host culture.

Build Self Awareness

  • Take the time to develop your personal identity.
  • Build skills of adaptability, communication and ability to deal with ambiguity.

Remember that a cultural adjustment period is normal! See our Culture and Identity page for more information on cultural adjustment and seek out support through your program/host university as needed.

Intercultural Competence Development

One of the many benefits of studying abroad is developing your intercultural abilities, skills and knowledge that allow you to move between distinct cultural groups and succeed in your interactions. Employers prize this mindset, which will benefit you in your future endeavors, both personal and professional.

Culture is an umbrella term encompassing the social behavior and norms within a society. It can also be thought of as superficial culture and in-depth culture. One of the ways to develop your intercultural competence is to move beyond cultural aspects such as food, hair, music, language and clothing and instead identify the history, traditions, behaviors and values that make meaning of and are reflected in superficial cultural aspects.

To do this, examine your LENS to interpret day-to-day life in your host culture, removing your subjective values of the culture and being objective in your interpretation of different and new things:

Three students arm in arm as they walk through a train station

Look objectively

When you notice something you do not understand in your host culture, eliminate judgmental words and describe the encounter or event objectively. Focus on viewing the encounter or event neutrally and not interpreting it through our expectations and judgments.

Examine your assumptions

Be open-minded and curious. Look carefully at the assumptions you have made to see what values, habits, beliefs and other cultural influences have led you to view the encounter or event as you did.

Note other possibilities

Be flexible and use your knowledge of the culture to envision what other values, habits and beliefs might be at work here and how they might lead to a different conclusion.

Substantiate with Locals

Use your intercultural communication, critical thinking and people skills to ask locals or bicultural people if the new possibilities you have generated are accurate or if there are other parts of the culture you have overlooked.