Skip to Content

### Experiencing Cultural Shock: Students Reflect on Overcoming Adversity Abroad

Grand Valley State University’s Department of Modern Languages and the Padnos International Center organized an event titled “Culture Shock: A Thinking Globally Conversation” on Thursday, Feb. The purpose of the event was to facilitate discussions on culture shock, reverse culture shock, and strategies to overcome these challenges for students who have either studied abroad or possess an interest in international travel.

All students who have international experience, whether through travel, study, or work abroad, were encouraged to participate and share their personal stories. The event took place around a large, round table where students and staff engaged in exchanging travel anecdotes and experiences to foster a deeper appreciation for different cultures and connections.

During the event, participants took turns introducing themselves, with some students opting to reveal the countries they had visited or their countries of origin. Following the introductions, they delved into sharing their experiences of living in foreign countries. One international student expressed how returning to his home country felt unfamiliar after establishing a life in the United States. Another student recounted a story of being lost in a foreign land with a failing cell phone and limited geographical knowledge. Despite the challenges faced, all the students who shared their stories emphasized the enriching nature of traveling to unfamiliar territories.

Nia Rahmaan, a senior at GVSU, recounted her study abroad experience in the fall of 2023 at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy. She dedicated her time to studying neuroscience and enrolling in neuroscience elective courses during her stay. Rahmaan admitted to initially feeling homesick for the U.S. while abroad but later realized the immense value of the experience, describing it as “very doable” in hindsight.

Another senior at GVSU, Elinor Harrison, also studied at John Cabot University in Rome, focusing on biomedical sciences and classics. Harrison participated in a six-week program, taking specialized classes related to her majors, such as an on-site history of ancient Rome course. She regarded her study abroad opportunity as one of the most memorable experiences of her college journey.

Reflecting on her time in Italy, Harrison highlighted the adjustment required to adapt to the “casual” and “slow” Italian culture, emphasizing the need to embrace a different pace of life during her stay.

Meghan Cai, the East Asian Studies Program Coordinator and associate professor at GVSU, played a key role in organizing the culture shock event. Cai expressed that the event aimed to make international travel more accessible and appealing to students interested in exploring diverse cultures.

Events like the culture shock discussion series serve to underscore the study abroad prospects available at GVSU and encourage students to engage with the global community. For more information on international study opportunities at GVSU, students can visit the GVSU study abroad [ppp1].