Global Seminar: Myths and Realities of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in Accra

Money Matters

Budgeting your money well during the period of time you are in Ghana is crucial to ensuring that you will be able to meet all of your financial needs during your visit.  Food, transportation, communication, and medical costs, at minimum, are the four basic needs you will have to satisfy while living in Ghana.  Of course, there are many other categories of expenses that you may have to consider as well, e.g. gifts, enter-tainment, and various personal items.

Below are a few helpful suggestions towards ensuring that your money will stretch far enough during your time spent in Ghana.


  1. As soon as possible, think in terms of Ghana cedis rather than dollars. In other words, there is no need to keep comparing what something would or should cost in the US (or anywhere else outside of Ghana).  What only matters is how much the item should cost in Ghana, especially in light of Ghana’s custom of bargaining for many of the prices of goods and services.
  2. When bargaining for goods (e.g. woodcarvings) and services (e.g. taxis) in Ghana, it is important to never accept the first price quoted by the seller. Instead, it is best to assume that the first price is at least twice the amount of what it should be.  Thus, if a taxi driver quotes a price of 20 Ghana cedis to travel from one location to another in Accra, it is (generally) best to make a counter offer of only 10 Ghana cedis (or even less in some circumstances,


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depending on the integrity of the seller, which is never easy to determine).  The sooner you develop your bargaining skills, the sooner you’ll be able to get a handle on managing your money during your stay in Ghana.

  1. If you are here for a semester or two, opening a bank account in Ghana is (usually) a waste of time. The withdrawal fees (and other related banking fees), alone, are too costly to consider opening an account, not to mention the hours spent on queuing in line to collect (or deposit) your money.
  2. Traveler’s checks are a huge hassle in Ghana. It would be best if you could exchange cash or access money, when needed, via a credit card, debit card, etc.
  3. Cash and traveler’s checks can be exchanged at banks, albeit not all banks ex-change traveler’s checks. Moreover, traveler’s checks, which are generally very difficult to exchange in Ghana, attract a lower exchange rate than cash.  Forex bureaus generally give better rates than banks on cash; then, too, no forex bureaus will take traveler’s checks.  Hence, if you’re exchanging cash, a forex bureau is your best bet.  If you have traveler’s checks, unless you’re at a large 4-5 star hotel with its own forex bureau, banks are your only option for exchanging traveler’s checks.  You can also receive cash—in Ghana cedis—on a visa card at most banks as well as at the numerous ATM machines in Accra and in other major cites.
  4. The most common way of having money wired to Ghana is through Western Union. You can also receive a ‘Moneygram’.  However, in both cases you will receive Ghana cedis (never dollars), and at an exchange rate slightly less than the regular, market rate.



Health and Wellness Abroad

It is not difficult to stay healthy in Ghana.  However, it will take—as it does anywhere—a conscious and deliberate effort on your part to maintain a healthy lifestyle while living in Ghana.  Below are a few important suggestions that can assist you in maintaining good health while living in Ghana.  Please give each recommenda-tion your strongest attention:

  1. Eating healthy foods is one of the most important ways to prevent getting sick in Ghana. While there is not always an abundance of vegetables served in many Ghanaian dishes, fresh fruits are in abundance almost everywhere—especially oranges, pineapples, bananas, mangoes, papaya, avocadoes, and other indigenous varieties of fruit.  Still, there are plenty of fresh vegetables around as well, e.g. cabbage, carrots, lettuce, and other leafy green vegetables.  In short, eating healthy in Ghana can strengthen your body in its fight against various airborne and parasitic diseases.
  2. Drinking mineral, boiled, or purified water, in abundance, is another important measure you should practice, especially during periods of intense heat and humidity. Remember, contaminated water, like contaminated food, is a major source of illness, including diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis, and typhoid.
  3. The seeds of the pawpaw—called papaya in the United States—can help to pre-vent stomach discomfort while in Ghana, especially those stomach illness-ses that lead to diarrhea. You should try to eat these seeds, along with the fruit itself, as much as possible.  It has wonderful medicinal properties.
  4. Infection sets in very easily in the tropics. It is therefore advisable to clean the slightest cuts and bruises, and to treat any such abrasions with antibacterial ointment as quickly as possible.
  5. Always remember to take your malaria prophylaxis! Malaria Kills!!!  It can be extremely painful and, if left untreated for even a short period of time, fatal.  Each of the various preventive medicines has side effects.  Mefloquin (brand name: Larium) appears to have the strongest side effects.  Study their various indications and make an informed choice on which one you think would best suit you.  Furthermore, when traveling outside of Accra, it is best to carry one of the various medicines designed to treat malaria.  Remember, you can still contract malaria even while taking the prophylaxis.  Even when returning home at the end of your internship, it is wise to carry a malaria treatment with you.  Remember, the gestation period for malaria can be quite lengthy, result-ing in actual symptoms felt long after an infectious mosquito bite.
  6. When in doubt, always consult—either with a medical doctor or, at minimum, by reading some of the health-related reading material available in various libraries and bookstores in Ghana. In short, when warning signs appear, do not ignore them; address them.  Stay alert, and do not take risks!
  7. In case of illness or injury, there are a variety of hospitals and clinics availa-ble. Nyaho Medical Centre, located in the Airport Residential area of Greater Accra, is one of the best health care providers in Ghana.  However, it is signi-ficantly more expensive than many of the state-funded hospitals and clinics, including the University Hospital across the street from the University of Ghana. Trust Hospital in Osu is a very good state-sponsored hospital, often recommended by the U.S. Embassy.  Other state-run hospitals providing solid (and relatively cheap) health-care are 37 Military Hospital, Osu Police Hospi-tal, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, and the University Hospital.
  8. You are covered under CAPA’s health insurance policy while living in Ghana.  You will first need to pay for expenses and then you will be  reimbursed later for health care expenses you incur while being treated in Ghana. All receipts, therefore, should be kept of all medical care expenses (including medicines) and included when filing for reimbursement.
  9. HIV/AIDS is real. In Ghana, the rate of incidence is slightly less than 4%, relatively low when compared to other crisis zones in Africa.  Nevertheless, you should practice the most effective methods of prevention and protection against this potentially fatal disease.

Emergency Numbers

Police (Legon)             030-2500975

Police (East Legon)     030-2912681

Police (Central)           030-2773900

US Embassy                030-2741000

US Embassy Hotline: 030-2741775

Emergency (Police): 191

Ambulance: 193

Fire: 192/999


It is important to note that, in relative terms, Ghana is one of the safest countries in Africa and, for that matter, the entire world.  This can also be said of Accra as well—compared to any of the capital cities in the West African sub-region, Africa as a whole, and certainly compared to any of its industrial counterparts.

Nevertheless, it is of the utmost importance to remain security conscious and alert during your entire stay in Ghana.  In short, you must exercise the greatest precaution in staying safe and secure during your stay in Ghana.  Below are a few strongly recommended guidelines to follow in order to remain safe and secure in Ghana.

  1. The most basic and fundamental way of remaining safe in Ghana is to avoid remote and sparsely populated areas anywhere in Ghana, day or night! In short, if you avoid spending time in areas where either you are the only person around or very few others are around, it is not likely you will ever be victimized by any criminal activity in Ghana.  This is because ordinary Ghanaians have absolutely no tolerance for criminal behavior; in fact, if they learn of any such behavior, e.g. a theft or mugging, they themselves will take justice into their own hands and—without waiting for the police—‘discipline’ the assailant.
  2. As consistently advised in all recent US. State Department warnings, S. ci-tizens should keep a low profile when moving about in foreign countries. Ghana is no exception to this rule (even though there have been no incidences of American being target by any groups in Ghana).  American citizens should not wear any T-shirts or hats that reference the United States; they should also avoid congregating in large or small groups that would serve to identify their U.S. citizenship.  In short, you should try to blend in with other foreign nationals from Canada, Europe, Asia, and other countries who are less likely to be the victim of random violence targeted at American citizens.
  3. When making friends in Ghana, please take your time and make good, sound judgments about who you decide to befriend.  During your stay in Ghana, there will be an endless array of Ghanaians who will seek your friendship.  However, like anywhere else in the world, there are many unsavory persons who would use the guise of friendship to take advantage of you in some way.   Please do not let this happen.  This is why we strongly suggest that you take it easy during your first few weeks in Ghana.  Consequently, until you get a feel for discerning the good from the bad, there is absolutely no need in giving people any information regarding your residential address in Ghana.  Instead, meeting people who you hardly know in neutral locations is far better than inviting them to your room or even to the house where you may be staying.  Indeed, the majority of persons who have been victimized by theft over the years have been victimized by per-sons who they, themselves, invited into their rooms after having met these per-sons only once or twice somewhere in town.  Again, there is no rush!  Before long, and in a natural way, you will meet Ghanaians—some students and some non-students—who you will be delighted to consider your friends.
  4. Whenever traveling out of town, it is absolutely necessary to inform someone in the Aya Centre of your itinerary.  You should provide us with your destination(s),   along with your expected departure and return dates.  The sole purpose of this in-formation is to enable us to ensure that you have returned from your trip safely.  Moreover, when traveling out of town—or even in-town at night—it is wise (whether male or female) to travel with at least one other friend.  Furthermore, when traveling to any of Ghana’s neighboring countries, it is imperative that you check with the U.S. State Department’s Travel Advisory Warnings on the particular country you plan to visit.  Be sure to carry all emergency telephone numbers with you at all times during your stay in Ghana—including the numbers of Aya Centre personnel, the appropriate embassy, and family and friends back home.

Emergency Numbers

Police (Legon)             030-2500975

Police (East Legon)     030-2912681

Police (Central)           030-2773900

US Embassy                030-2741000

US Embassy Hotline: 030-2741775

Emergency (Police): 191

Ambulance: 193

Fire: 192/999

Keeping in Touch

Our communication systems in Ghana, like much of the general economic environ-ment, is relatively weak, albeit it is improving.  Internet service, at times, can move excruciating slow.  However, there are Internet cafes dotted throughout Greater Accra (and throughout Ghana), and many of them work very well.  One of the fastest and most efficient service in Accra is Busy Internet on Ring Road near Kwame Nkrumah Circle, open ‘24-7.’  The Aya Centre has wireless service, which is relatively fast, and is available 24-7.  Surfline is the newest and fastest service in Ghana, although it is relatively expensive and unaffordable for most Ghanaians.  Individual modems are available from Surfline, and can be purchased from their office in East Legon

The postal service in Ghana is relatively good.  Letters to and from the United States can take, generally, anywhere between 7-14 days.  However, occasionally a letter or parcel will take much longer to arrive.  Express Mail from the United States can take as long as 5 working days before it is delivered to the receiver in Ghana.  From Ghana, EMS moves as quickly as Express Mail, albeit the former is much cheaper than the latter.

Communicating by telephone has improved considerably over the past few years.  Besides the fixed, land-lines that operate in many homes and offices throughout Ghana, there are various cell phone service available to the Ghanaian population.

For convenience, many persons visiting Ghana for extended periods of time, including most international students, purchase cell phones—for approximately $50—to enable their families and friends from home to contact them when necessary.  The five main cell phone companies are Vodafone, Tico, MTN, Zain, and Kasapa; and with the purchase of one phone card for approximately $5 or less, each of these cell phone services provide approximately 5-6 weeks of ‘receiving’ time (even after the ‘calling’ time has expired), allowing parents, family, and friends easy access.  Alternatively, students can bring their own smart phones and purchase a local sim card to make local and international calls.


Your Cultural Identity

Who are you? Tough question, right? How do you begin to answer it?  There are numerous directions that you could go in physical characteristics, gender, morals, roles, and so many more.  Your identity is constantly evolving throughout time and being shaped with each experience you have.  In this section, we offer various perspectives on how to conceptualize your identity here in the USA and abroad.

Race and Ethnicity
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Life
Students with Disabilities
Dietary Concerns
Living in an Urban Environment


CAPA strives to be an inclusive environment, where all students receive the support and guidance necessary to interact in a new environment and learn from people with diverse backgrounds, worldviews, and cultural traditions. CAPA fosters a number of on-going initiatives to support students, faculty, and staff as they explore diversity issues.

While abroad, students will encounter a wide range of perspectives regarding diversity issues. Understanding how these attitudes and beliefs may influence your study abroad experience will significantly help you to better understand your own beliefs as well as those of your host culture.

First, examine your own identity and cultural beliefs. Then research the culture of your host country and begin to reflect upon how your identity will impact your experiences and perhaps be affected by your experience in a different culture.

Students can provide support for each other abroad by getting together and talking about their experiences. In discussing your experiences focus on exploring how they provide insight into the cultural values of your host culture. Develop strategies for coping with culture shift, rather than getting stuck in culture shock. It is important to balance your own perceptions while maintaining respect for your host culture. Keep in mind your study abroad experience is not an opportunity to replicate your home life in another setting; instead it is a new learning experience.


Study abroad allows you the opportunity to explore cultural patterns for gender roles. No matter your gender identity, you may be challenged by gender roles and expectations that are different than those to which you are accustomed. Interactions between and amongst genders are often fascinating to learn about, while gender relationships can be equally challenging for students who do not adhere to the gender norms of their host culture. Prepare yourself by first reflecting on your own cultural understanding of gender roles and relations. Are their some behaviors that are more acceptable for one gender than another in your home country? In your city? In your community?

Once you are in-country you may find that your perceptions of appropriate interactions do not correspond to the acceptable interactions in your host country. Learn what is expected in terms of dress codes, appropriate conversation topics, proximity and physical contact. Be observant and learn the social norms and the consequences for violating those norms. If you have any unanswered questions about cultural norms the CAPA staff will be happy to help you.

Before you go, it can prove very useful to research the implications of gender in your host culture. Talk with students who have studied there before, befriend international students from your host culture, and search the internet for more helpful information. Some questions to research include:

  • What is the history of gender roles and relations in your host culture?
  • Are there different roles and expectations for US American women/men than there are for women/men of your host culture?
  • How might your gender influence people’s interactions with you?
  • What privileges and disadvantages are associated with gender in your host culture?
  • What are the consequences for stepping outside the gender norms?
  • How do you plan to cope with a cultural shift in gender roles and expectations?

Race and Ethnicity

Every student will have a unique experience abroad, even those in the same program and same country. This same diversity of experience is also true for students of color and those from US dominant groups. It is important to learn about the politics of race, ethnicity, religion, and nationality in your host country. This will help you develop realistic expectations for situations you might encounter abroad.

Students in the past have reported a variety of experiences and perceptions abroad, ranging from those who felt relieved to leave the context of race relations in the US, to those who felt similar and also new types of prejudice abroad. Regardless of the challenges some students faced in their host cultures, almost all report feeling very satisfied with their experience abroad and mark it as one of the most important aspects of their undergraduate studies.

A Reflection on Study Abroad, Race & Changing Perceptions of the US
Click this image to read about the experience of CAPA Blogger, Mathew Ramsay, in Sydney.

Before you depart, it is advisable to research the history of your host culture’s relationships to US non-dominant groups. It is also a good idea to talk with others who have studied there, befriend host country nationals, ask for their insight, and search the internet for additional information. Some students have found that members of their host culture did not considered them to be US Americans, but rather identified them according to their race or ethnic background. It is a good idea to think about how this will make you feel and how you plan to address this cross-cultural adversity.

  • How does your home culture define “race” and “ethnicity”?
  • How does your host culture define those same terms?
  • Are there different expectations for people within these categories? In your town? In your city? In the country?
  • How will expectations be different in your host culture? Why?
  • What influences people’s expectations? At home? In your host culture?
  • How do you plan to cope with the shift in cultural understanding of “race” and “ethnicity”?

Learning as much as you can about your host culture and country before you depart will help you prepare and make the most of your study abroad experience. Once in-country be sure to develop a support network and speak with CAPA staff who will be happy to answer any of your questions and address any of your concerns.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Life

While studying abroad you will meet new friends and develop new relationships: friendships and perhaps romantic ones. Research what your host country’s norms are in terms of friendships and romantic relationships between people of any sexual orientation or gender identity.

Before you depart for your program abroad CAPA encourages you to learn everything you can about the country and culture in which you’ll be studying. Sexual identity and gender identity, as well as how each are defined, vary across cultures. Remember to consider the cultural, social, and legal issues involved. While some countries are more supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights than the U.S., others stipulate punishments for certain behavior.

It is important to consider the implications of being identified as LGBTQ person in your host culture and how being “out” may impact other people’s interactions with you. You may field questions about boyfriends or girlfriends regardless of how you self-identify. It is a good idea to start formulating personal strategies to address these situations and to develop a support network in-country. Additional questions to consider include:

  • What terms are used to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity in your home?
  • What terms are used in your host country? Do they have similar or different means?
  • What are the expectations for LGBTQ people? In your town? In your city? In the country?
  • How will expectations be different in your host culture? Why?
  • What influences people’s expectations? At home? In your host culture?
  • How might your (real or perceived) sexual orientation and gender identity influence people’s interactions with you? How will this make you feel? How will this impact your overall experience?
  • How do you plan to cope with the shift in cultural beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity?

Seek out country-specific information by speaking with fellow students who have been there before and befriend people from your host country to learn common perceptions. Search the internet for additional sources. The NAFSA Association of International Educators Rainbow Special Interest Group is a good place to start.


Studying abroad can be powerful experience for all students. As you prepare for your study abroad experience consider how your religion or spiritual beliefs may influence your experiences abroad. You will likely have encounters that challenge your notions of spirituality. You can alleviate potential misunderstandings by learning as much as possible about the culture where you’ll be living. Your experience abroad can be an incredible opportunity to learn about world religions and to understand social and historical views of religious acceptance and tolerance in your host country. Take the time to learn how people in your host culture worship and engage in different religious practices.

  • What is the predominant religion of your host country?
  • How might your beliefs and practices be viewed in your host culture? How might this influence people’s interactions with you?
  • In what ways does religion influence social interactions in your host culture?
  • How will you practice your religion abroad?
  • Do you wish to connect with a group or attend religious service abroad?
  • What strategies will you use to adjust to a culture with different perceptions of your religious beliefs?

Prepare yourself by thinking about how you will answer questions about your religion and spiritual beliefs in your host country’s language. If you have dietary restrictions due to your religious beliefs, make sure to inform CAPA staff well in advance of your program start date. Seek out country-specific information about world religions by speaking with fellow students who have studied there before and befriend people from your host country to learn common perceptions. Learn how your host culture views diverse religious beliefs and how people of diverse faith are integrated into society. The more you know, the better prepared you will be for the your new environment.


While abroad you will have the opportunity to interact with a wide range of people with diverse backgrounds and life experiences. In your host culture you may experience class issues differently than you do at home. In certain contexts, all U.S. Americans may be considered rich, including working class Americans. Some cultures have more narrowly defined notions of “class” than those in the United States. It is a good idea to first reflect on your own ideas about “class,” and then research your host country’s ideas too. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • How do you define class? What class do you belong to?
  • What are the different expectations for people of different classes in the U.S.?
  • How is “class” defined in your host culture?
  • How do foreigners and U.S. Americans integrate into the class structure of your host culture?
  • Do you have friends from different classes at home? Why or why not?
  • Who would you like to meet in your host culture? What do you want to learn?
  • How might a cultural shift in perceptions about “class” impact you and your experience abroad?

Seek out country-specific information by speaking with fellow students who have studied there before and befriend people from your host country to learn common perceptions. Also be sure to spend some time researching class issues in your host country before you depart.

Students with Disabilities

The decision to study abroad is an important one for all students. Students with disabilities should make sure that they are informed about available accommodations before making their final decision. Keep in mind that the most important quality for any study abroad participant is openness. You are going abroad to experience a different way of life, which may include alternative methods of addressing your disability.

Remember that you may experience either more or less independence than you are accustomed to at home. Consider how this will impact you. It will be important to self-advocate and communicate your needs, but also important to remain open to alternative ways to meet your needs. Inform the CAPA staff about the accommodations you require, well in advance of your program start date. Keep the staff updated about any challenges you encounter while abroad.

Prepare yourself by thinking about how you will answer questions about your disability in your host country’s language. Look up key vocabulary words ahead of time. Seek out country-specific information by speaking with fellow students who have studied there before and befriend people from your host country to learn common perceptions. The more you know, the better prepared you will be for the your new environment. Search the internet for additional information. Here are some questions to consider.

  • How does your host culture define disability?
  • How is this different than the way that the U.S. defines disability?
  • What accommodations will be available to you abroad?
  • What accommodations will not be available to you? How will this impact you?
  • How are people with disabilities integrated into society?
  • How do plan to cope with cultural shift and alternative methods for addressing your disability?

Dietary Concerns

In the U.S. a wide range of food is available and ingredients are usually listed on the packaging. When traveling abroad, it is sometimes difficult to maintain a particular diet. Being a vegetarian (or vegan), for example, can mean different things to different people. It is important to be clear and specific when communicating your dietary concerns (I don’t eat meat. I don’t eat red meat. I eat fish. I don’t eat pork. I am lactose intolerant. Etc). Be sure to inform CAPA well in advance of your program start date about your dietary needs. If you plan to stay with a host family it may take some time to find a family that will accommodate your needs. Make certain to also have a conversation with your host family about your dietary concerns upon arrival.

Also take time to consider how your food choices might affect the friends who may invite you to dinner, your host family, or students with whom you will cook in the residence halls. Prepare for situations where ingredient lists are unavailable and for your new acquaintances to challenge your dietary restrictions. It is a good idea to be prepared to discuss your dietary concerns in your host country’s language and to strategize methods to cope with the stress of possibly having less access to the foods in your regular diet.

Living in an Urban Environment

For many students, the greatest shift in studying abroad is moving from the community in which they live – be it their hometown, their campus community, etc. into a major world city. Consider the environment in which you currently live relative to the size of the city in which you will be living. What is the significance of this change? While obviously there are logistic considerations, such as the length of an average daily commute, and the size of living spaces, there are other considerations as well. In many cities, it can mean that each neighborhood might have a distinct subset of cultural representation and social norms.

It means preparing yourself for the expectation that you will encounter people of all different backgrounds and beliefs. It might mean that the way in which you are accustomed to accessing resources in the United States will need to change to accommodate the fact that you live among a large population. If you have lived in a community that is fairly economically homogeneous for the majority of your life, you should consider that this will not be the case in a major global city. It is important to begin to consider and unpack any prejudices that you may even sub/unconsciously carry, and realize that the responsibility is upon you to change these perceptions, rather than for the city itself to change to accommodate you. Arm yourself with information. Research your Global City.

    •  Who lives in the city?
    • How do people live there?
    • Why do people live there?
    • What differences are there between this Global City and the place in which you live now?

Culture Shock & Shift


Everyone goes through different stages as they adjust to a new country and culture, regardless of where they previously lived.  Common stages are as follows:

  1. Initially, you are excited about being in a new culture, also known as the honeymoon phase.  You hold very high expectations and an extremely positive attitude toward the host country and people.  You focus mainly on similarities between the cultures.
  2. Then after the honeymoon ends, you may become irritated by particular customs or values.  You may feel hostility and focus on differences between how things are done in your host culture and your own cultural understanding of how things “should” be done.  Minor incidents are often blown out of proportion and you may react negatively.
  3. Gradually, you orient yourself and begin to open up to more of the complexities of living in another culture, both the positive and negative aspects.  Your outlook brightens and things become comfortable and familiar.
  4. Finally, your attitude changes and you are able to confidently function in both cultures.  You enjoy living and experiencing life in a multitude of ways and appreciate diverse worldviews.

Culture Shock

Studying abroad and interacting with diverse cultures can be an exciting experience, but it can simultaneously feel jarring to constantly interact with others who do not share your worldview, values, and customs.  When a person shifts to a new culture, they are uprooted from the comfortable and familiar surroundings of home and transplanted, voluntarily or otherwise, to a different cultural setting. The majority of travelers residing in another culture for an extended amount of time encounter some of the following physical and psychological reactions when shifting to a new culture.

Signals of Culture Shock and Shift

  • Homesickness (longing to be where everything is comfortable and familiar)
  • Compulsive eating and drinking to excess
  • Irritability and excessive need for sleep
  • Boredom (no discovery of new aspects of the culture)
  • Hostility and stereotyping of host country nationals
  • Avoiding contact with host country nationals and seeing only other Americans
  • Inability to perform work efficiently
  • Tension and conflict with those around you
  • Unexplained crying/depression or physical problems

Some common frustrations that occur when shifting to a new culture

  • Finding your goals to be unrealistic in a different culture
  • Realizing your approach is inappropriate, despite good intentions
  • Not being able to see any results after working hard
  • Feeling involved in a project for too short a time to make any qualitative impact

Some routine interactions that may cause discomfort in a new culture

  • Differences in customer service
  • Understanding new accents or the language (including British English)
  • Understanding people’s mannerisms and how to respond to them
  • Distinguishing a serious statement from one meant to amuse
  • Having to rely on public transportation
  • Sense of time/different value placed on punctuality/response time
  • Doing laundry and food shopping
  • Gender, class, race, (etc) relations
  • The attitudes of host country nationals towards Americans in their land
  • Different values or attitudes to things such as religion

Strategies for Addressing Culture Shock

Everyone experiences the above symptoms to varying degrees. You will be able to adjust to the local culture more easily if you anticipate and welcome cultural differences and prepare in advance for how you will deal with potential frustrations:

  • Learn about the culture.  Find out all you can by talking with people from that culture, read guidebooks, talk with other students who have visited there, seek out additional resources, and search the Internet.  Ask yourself in what ways the information you found may be biased and why.
  • Journal about your expectations based on your research.  Then try to look for areas where you may have made assumptions.  Why do you have those assumptions?  What other possibilities exist?
  • Make of list of things you can do to reduce stress (journaling, going for a walk, practicing yoga, listening to music, playing cards, knitting, collecting items for scrap-booking, talking with friends, writing letters, etc).
  • Pack some small (and not too valuable) items from home; plan to use them to relax when you are feeling stress.
  • Pack your sense of humor.  You will make lots of mistakes, but it’s okay and all part of the learning experience!
  • Be able to laugh at yourself and the circumstances you encounter!  If you are not able to laugh, try a half-smile which has been proven to trigger a positive mood change.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself.  Realize your expectations may not be met.  Prepare for an adventure every day and to learn from all the different situations you may encounter.
  • Practice going with the flow and living in the moment.  Be prepared to tolerate ambiguity.  And don’t forget to relax and have fun!

Have Questions?

Mary Brown

Global Cities Program Advisor or 800.793.0334


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