Cultural Adjustment

Culture Shock

The inevitability of cross-cultural experiences is that ideas and notions of self and others get challenged and reshaped by daily interactions, first-hand experiences, and lived knowledge. Students often find that their host culture is not how they expected, sometimes for better, other times for worse. This is generally termed ‘culture shock,’ and as a parent/guardian you’ll often be a long-distance sounding board as your student tries to make sense of their new surroundings. Students report experiencing confusion and a range of emotions while abroad so you may receive an exuberant phone call one day and a very dejected email the next. Transitioning to a new way of life can be difficult and it takes a while to settle in and begin to put things in perspective.

Tips for supporting your student:

  • Recognize the normalcy of what your student might be going through and remain supportive.
  • Encourage independence and self-reliance. We do not encourage you to travel over with your student at the beginning of the semester, but rather wait until your student is settled. That way, your student can be your very own tour guide!
  • Before your student departs, establish the best way to communicate with your student and how often you will communicate.
  • Encourage your student to develop a support network on site and to find activities they enjoy.
  • If after some time, you truly believe your student is having serious difficulty adapting to their new environment, encourage them to consult with an Syracuse Abroad counselor or trusted staff member.

Re-entry & Reverse Culture Shock

Coming home can be just as difficult. This is particularly true for students who spend a semester or year abroad. It will take a bit of time to re-adjust. Your student will have grown personally and will not be the same child you said goodbye to at the airport. Your student may feel frustrated because he or she has experienced so much, but everything at home still feels ‘exactly the same.’ Expect them to experience some level of personal confusion and a wide range of emotions, including irritation and anger. Be patient and allow your student time to share stories and memories from their time abroad. With time, often several months, they will eventually fall back into step with life in the U.S.

We encourage you and your student to visit the re-entry pages on our website for further resources.

Tips for supporting your student:

  • Be patient.
  • Allow your student time to share stories and memories of their time abroad and encourage open discussions about their time abroad and how it compares to life at home.
  • Encourage your student to apply to become a Global Ambassador so that they may share their experiences with future students.