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Lucy, Challenges Abroad Student Engagement Coordinator, speaks about her experience of culture shock.

Culture shock is a pretty common experience when going overseas, particularly to a country which is very different to your own, and it’s something that is totally normal. I think culture shock can come in many forms, and sometimes you might not even realise your suffering some kind of culture shock during certain experiences, until after the fact. Looking back over my time travelling abroad and trying to pinpoint times where I may have been suffering a little bit of culture shock, the only memories that come to mind are situations where I didn’t even realise it was probably culture shock at the time.

The first time I think I felt a bit of culture shock was in the United States, when I was about 10 years old. Honestly, the US is very similar to Australia so it’s funny that I look at my feelings during my trip through the US as a time where I suffered a small bit of culture shock, particularly in comparison to never really feeling culture shock in East Africa. Perhaps it was because I was young, and this was my first real trip abroad.

Anyways, despite absolutely loving the US, and having such a fun time with my mum, I remember regularly feeling really on edge, and not wanting to eat much (which is definitely not normal for me…). A lot of the time, my stomach was in knots and I just remember feeling very anxious a lot of the time, but never really knowing why. Looking back, I would now relate this to feeling some form of culture shock, and the anxiety of being in a new country, where I didn’t know my way around or much about my surroundings, caused unusual feelings that I couldn’t supress, despite having such a great time.

I was expecting to suffer a lot of culture shock travelling to Tanzania, especially as this was going to also be my first solo trip alone. Maybe because I am older, or simply because all I have ever felt is love for Tanzania, there has honestly never been a time where I felt any form of culture shock here. However, in this, I am not including times where I have witnessed things which were greatly confronting, as there have been times where I’ve seen things that were sad, scary or just emotionally draining. I have always felt so at home there, and very safe and happy, but I know that it is these types of places which can regularly cause culture shock in others, simply for the reason that things are almost always done a completely different way to how they are done at home, and it forces you to live well out of your element.

As I have said earlier, culture shock is completely normal, and nothing which you should ever feel guilty for suffering. I have a few tips as to how you can help adjust to a new place, and how you can work through the emotions that culture shock may bring up. Stay tuned for our next blog for these tips!

If you’re ready to experience a different culture and challenge yourself, you can book in one of our trips with just a $10 deposit.