There’s a feeling when you get accepted to study abroad. A sense of excitement and anticipation for the unknown rushes through you. You know that you’re going, but at the same time it feels surreal to be travelling to another country. Up until departure, you’re full of nervous energy and eagerness, ready to take on whatever comes.
Then, after hours, maybe days, of travelling you land in your new home and reality sets in: You’re really in a foreign country, and you have to navigate it by yourself. People are speaking in a language you do not understand, there are social and cultural norms that you can’t seem to get the hang of. You feel a little bit out of place and a little overwhelmed, and for a moment you wish you could just go back home where things are familiar. That’s culture shock.
But then things get better. You meet the people in your program and you start to go on excursions and to class with them. You meet some locals and let yourself become immersed in the culture. Soon, your acquaintances become your friends, and what was once scary is now comfortable. The culture shock wears off, and you start to wonder how you could ever leave this place.
But you do leave. Eventually, you will have to return back to your life in the United States. You will find yourself missing that time that you had abroad. You will experience culture shock again as you reacclimate into your own life. This time, however, you will be able to look back on the great friendships you made and the amazing experiences you had and remember how good those times were.
I am so grateful for the time that I spent in Cape Town, South Africa. I find myself extremely lucky that I will miss it so much because that means I was lucky enough to meet people and have experiences that are now close to my heart. This trip was an incredible adventure, and, culture shock included, I am so happy that I got to experience it.
This post was contributed by LeAnne Maduka, a 2019 Global Ambassador. LeAnne is a biology major studying abroad on the Urban and Economic Development Maymester program in Cape Town, South Africa.
Don’t get left behind. Read more about LeAnne’s experience abroad>>