Pre- and Post-Departure
All students studying abroad or away are required to participate in a pre-departure orientation. The format varies by program type:
- Long-term programs: Orientation for SJSU Exchange programs is held in person at a date and time to be announced prior to departure. Students studying abroad on a CSU International Program or an ISEP program are welcome to attend, but will have additional meetings through their program provider. CSU IP students will also be required to attend a mandatory state-wide orientation in the spring that is specific to CSU IP programs.
- Short-term programs: Orientation is provided through an online Canvas course. For Summer School Abroad and Alternative Break Programs, an in-person site-specific orientation will also be held to give more details about your experience.
Orientation will cover topics such as:
- Travel websites & documents
- Travel tips
Studying abroad is both an exciting and challenging time! You will be embarking on an adventure and navigating a new culture, country and academic system. All of these changes can lead to what are called "cultural transitions." Below are a few cultural transitions you may encounter during your study abroad experience.
It is completely normal to face challenges as you step outside of your comfort zone; it is all part of the learning process. It is also important to note that you are all going to have your own unique experience abroad—you may or may not go through every transition below, and you may stay in one transition for a while! There is no "one size fits all" when it comes to studying abroad.
Let’s talk about what these cultural transitions mean so that you can be prepared if you encounter them during your study abroad or away program.
Culture Surprise: This typically happens early on in your study abroad experience when you become aware of new, exciting differences in the culture. Although this can be energizing at first, it can lead to overstimulation and fatigue.
Culture Exploration: This is when you intentionally begin learning about and exploring the new culture you are in (food, people, history, language, etc.)! This may include discovering elements of the culture you like, and others you might not agree with.
Culture Stress: This is when you encounter difficulties in your daily life that annoy or frustrate you, and it can lead to having higher than usual emotional responses or withdrawing. This response usually appears and fades away depending on your day-to-day experiences.
Culture Adjustment: This is when you start to feel at home during your time abroad! You are able to navigate daily living and integrate both host and home culture into your life.
Culture Fatigue: This might occur after being in your host culture for an extended amount of time and continuously processing new cultural information. It can lead to you feeling less interested in the culture or more irritated than usual. This may include “language fatigue” if you are primarily using a second language to communicate with others.
Culture Conflict: This may occur in response to behaviors you see in the culture that irritate or annoy you (for example, street harassment or excessive staring). It also could be a response to a critical incident that occurs (for example, a cultural misunderstanding/cultural faux pas).
It is important to remember that everyone experiences cultural transitions in their own way. Not everyone will go through each phase, and responses may differ depending on the person. It is completely normal to have an emotional response to being in a new country, even if it is not your first time abroad. Pay attention to your emotions to distinguish between normal emotional responses and those that might need professional help (remember that you still have access to Counseling and Psychological Services while you are abroad!)
Adaptation Strategies While Abroad:
- Be curious, flexible and keep an open mind
- Manage your expectations (set attainable goals for yourself!)
- Talk with mentors and peers about your experience
- Interact with locals as much as possible; you have so much to learn from each other!
- Find a way to do what you love to do at home while abroad
- Self-care: eat healthy, exercise, get enough sleep and take time for yourself to relax
- Be patient with yourself if you make a mistake
- Develop a support network in your new home, and remember that you always have a support system here at SJSU!
For more resources on cultural transitions: Check out the University of the Pacific’s What’s Up With Culture? website.
After returning from abroad, there will be an optional re-entry orientation. This will give students the opportunity to reflect on their time abroad with peers and learn how to integrate their experience into daily life after returning home.