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Crossing Cultures

The Office for Education Abroad (EA) encourages you to make every effort to take advantage of the many intercultural learning opportunities you'll have while abroad.

Before You Leave

  • Learn about your destination.
  • Learn the local language.
  • As soon as you recover from your jet lag, plunge into the local life in your new home.
  • Don't allow initial negative experiences to sour you on the country.
  • Ignore complaints about the country.
  • Accept the challenge of establishing yourself in the new country and work hard to enjoy your stay.

Cultural Adjustments

Your success abroad depends on how much effort you spend diving headfirst into living and studying in a foreign culture. You'll be exhilarated, frustrated, overwhelmed, and awed. The more time you spend in your host country, the more natural it will become.

Being a U.S. American Abroad

As a student from the U.S. studying abroad, you'll have to deal with real (and perceived) cultural differences. Here are some qualities associated with the stereotypical U.S. American:

  • outgoing and friendly
  • sure to have all the answers
  • wealthy
  • informal
  • lacking in class consciousness
  • generous
  • loud, rude, boastful, immature
  • disrespectful of authority
  • always in a hurry
  • hardworking
  • racially prejudiced
  • promiscuous
  • extravagant and wasteful
  • ignorant of other countries
  • politically naive

When you think about friends, family, and classmates, it's clear that these qualities don't apply to every U.S. American. That's how a stereotype works, and it works both ways: avoid grouping the population of an entire country into a small box of qualities. When you're abroad, you're an ambassador for MSU and the United States, so avoid falling into any of the "ugly American" stereotypes.

Weirdly, one of the greatest benefits of living in a foreign country is getting a better understanding of U.S. culture. Seeing yourself and your home country through a different lens is a strange and beautiful experience, so travel with an open mind!

Survival Strategies

Going abroad requires that you adjust to the same sorts of things that you would if you moved to another part of the United States: being away from family and friends, living in an unfamiliar environment, meeting new people, adjusting to a different climate, and so on. Here's how to cope.

Being a Woman Abroad

The majority of students who study abroad are women and they report back that they have had incredible experiences. However, in certain locations and programs, women may have a difficult time adjusting to attitudes they encounter abroad, in both public and private interactions between men and women.  Here's what to expect, and some ways to handle it.

Dating and Sex

Different cultures have different norms with regard to gender. Women and men should both be aware that the ways people interact vary widely by region and country and that issues concerned with dating and sexuality can be particularly difficult in a cross-cultural setting. Be prepared before you travel abroad.