30 January, 2010

Not so easy

One of the pre-departure handouts UMaine's Office of International Programs gave out describes in detail eight phases of the intercultural adjustment cycle students who go abroad experience. First comes application anxiety, followed by arrival fascination and initial culture shock. The fourth stage is mental isolation, and we need go no farther for now.

At first it seemed so easy. I would recommend to anyone studying abroad three things that helped ease the transition for me: setting your destination university's website as your home page for a couple of months, meeting and spending time with any friends from that place before you leave, and boosting your immune system with supplements - to cope with lack of sleep, jet lag, and the other physical and mental stresses of the transition. And for six days since leaving home, those seemed to work.

Day 6. I feel a cold coming on. An experience last night at a club left my mind full. And the veil of novelty over everything begins to wear thin. I could not say the phases occur as clearly as the sine wave used to represent them; nonetheless they are tangible. Especially as the amount of work required to build a new circle of relationships, learn a new language, and succeed in school becomes clear.