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Be prepared to undergo an adjustment cycle during your stay. Expect some ups and downs. You'll start out with a great deal of excitement. Wherever you are studying will be the most fantastic place on earth. You'll be riding high with enthusiasm. Then, the novelty may wear off and reality will set in. You may feel lonely, frustrated, disappointed, depressed, homesick, and irritable. You may even feel "abandoned" by your friends and family at home due to the lack of communication. You'll complain about many things and many people, you'll probably wish you'd never left home, and long to be back in the United States or your home country -- if you could ever imagine that!

These feelings of "culture shock" are perfectly normal and will pass with time as you develop friendships. It is important at this point not to give up, but instead hang in there and keep swimming. This stage will pass and remember that your family and believe in you and what you are doing. Bit by bit things will get better, the petty frustrations will tend to disappear, and you'll finally figure out who you are, where you are, and why you are there. As you complete your adjustment cycle, you'll come to accept and then enjoy everything, including the academics, food, drinks, habits, languages and customs of the host country. Finally when you complete your experience, you may not want to leave when it is time to go home.

Some signs of culture shock might include disorientation, depression, homesickness, excessive sleeping, withdrawal and irritability. It is important to note that this is very common and is a normal part of the adjustment process. Most will go through some form of culture shock.

There are some things you can do to help alleviate culture shock. Keep a journal of your experiences; make yourself write in it every day. Make yourself be engaged in your surroundings, even if you don't feel like it at the time. Finally, don't keep your feelings to yourself. Share them with other travelers or your faculty chaperone. The faculty member you are traveling with may be well versed in travel, but at one time they too had their first travel experience out of the country and has probably felt just like you.
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