Cultural Adaptation

Culture has been defined as a shared system of attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviors. When students travel abroad and leave the cultural context they are familiar with, they can be confronted with feelings of anxiety or distress. While each student experiences this in their own unique way, the process of acculturation can be characterized by feelings of homesickness, heightened irritability, or frustration with the host culture. Students should be prepared for this experience and know that it is possible to move through the feelings related to disorientation of being in an unfamiliar culture with appropriate guidance and support.


Managing Cultural Adaptation

All forms of challenges associated with cultural adaptation are completely normal and part of a successful process of acculturation.  

These are a few strategies to support you as you move through the cultural adaptation process. Remember, these are easier said than done, so students will really need to push themselves beyond their comfort zones to act on the following: 

  • Journal as a way to reflect and process your experience 
  • Don’t be quick to judge and keep an open mind 
  • Set some personal goals and evaluate your progress 
  • Get involved in activities at your host institution 
  • Talk to your Site Staff to make sense of your experience – they can help! 
  • If feelings persist make an appointment to see an on-site mental health professional 
  • Exercise and practice self-care 
  • Be patient and don’t compare 
  • Allow yourself to feel sad about the things that you have left behind, such as your family and friends 
  • Consider taking the 1-credit Global Learning Experience course offered at some locations


Not only may students experience cultural adaptation while living in a foreign country, but they may also go through a period of re-entry or re-adaption which occurs when returning to their home culture after living abroad for some time. Living abroad can help students expand their perspectives or worldview. Thus, returning home may require readjustment, reassimilation, and reexamining of their prior ways of life. Some approaches that may help with managing re-entry include journaling to make sense of the experience and its impact on personal development, finding opportunities to share about the experience with friends, family, or prospective students, and staying connected with the cohort after returning to Boston