Adjusting to a Different Culture

Tips for adjusting to a new culture:

  • One of the best ways to begin to understand a foreign culture is to listen to, and talk with, the local people.  A great way to meet local people is to get involved in activities outside of classes. Soon after arrival, we recommend students find out what kind of extracurricular activities are available and join some! Take the initiative: while U.S. students are usually welcome to join in local activities, locals may not make a special effort to invite them.
  • Students should be observant when meeting new people, and try not to judge people and situations by US standards. Go abroad with an open mind and positive attitude—this approach will open many doors.
  • An important thing for students to keep in mind while abroad is that they are there to experience and participate in a culture very different from their own. A common tendency for US citizens living abroad is the desire to change the local culture to make it more like the U.S. Students should try to be open-minded, and remember that the institutions at which they are studying, their landlady, the local merchants, etc., are unlikely—and should not be expected—to change their ways just because a U.S. student finds them difficult or odd.
  • The food served during a homestay or in the student dining halls will probably be quite different what Whitman students are used to, nor is it likely to change.   Be open-minded about new culinary delights!
  • Students should try not to compare situations abroad with life at home, and be careful about verbalizing any comparisons they do make.