Blogs, Culture Shock

Culture Shock: Going through actual culture shock

A beautiful, sunny day in Prague. Annie Cappetta // Contributing Photographer

Culture Shock is a blog that analyzes the experiences, from awkward to awe-inspiring, of moving abroad for a semester as junior Annie Cappetta studies in the Czech Republic.

Before departing for a semester in another country, the study abroad office makes students go through certain modules so we understand any responsibilities and risks associated with our programs. One such module was a presentation about health, with a slide for mental health that read, “It is not unusual for visitors in a foreign country to experience loneliness, homesickness, and culture shock. These feelings should be temporary; if your difficulties continue, you should seek help.”

At the in-person orientation, a staff member at the counseling center was brought in to explain to us the four stages of cultural adjustment: initial excitement, irritation, adjustment and adaptation. We college students, of course, turned this into a go-to sarcastic mechanism for peer pressure: “If you don’t come out tonight, you’re definitely culture shook,” or “If you don’t travel this weekend, you’ll get culture shock.”

But I really did miss home. The frustration hit me for the first time about a month ago, after being confined to my room with a nasty virus from weeks of constant travel and sleep deprivation. I didn’t quite change my routine; I still spoke to my friends and family from home often enough but not too often to keep me stuck thinking about them.

It wasn’t a particular person, food, place, comfort or way of living that I missed. It was this quiet, dull ache that just got louder and made me more on edge. Every little “social-snafu,” as we refer to awkward cross-cultural communication, piled up to put me in a state of feeling consistently out of place.

All I wanted to do was be at home, the place I feel most safe, with the people I love the most. No matter what assurances people give you about the conveniences of modern communication technology, nothing substitutes being in the same room with family and friends.

I knew I was being unreasonable, and it was just a matter of time before I’d be back home doing the same thing, wishing I was abroad again to explore new cities every weekend with a stellar group of people.

Then, one morning, I had a good talk with a friend here about nothing in particular, but for some reason it made me appreciate the people I’ve met and relationships I’ve built here. I walked outside, and the sun was shining for the first time in weeks. I decided to walk home, taking the long way and bopping along to Chance the Rapper instead of the emo acoustic music I had been stuck on all week.

And I snapped out of it.

That night I cooked up a special dinner for my friends here, something I love to do, instead of lamenting that there’s only one broken pot and a spoon in the kitchen, making most of my favorite kitchen projects impossible.

I’ve mostly shaken off social snafus or avoided them altogether. I spend less time studying and lounging in the dorm during the week and put more effort into making plans to explore hidden parts of Prague.

I love being here, but sometimes that quiet ache wants to throb for a few days. I realized that I probably had culture shock when I came to Miami from my small, quintessentially Midwestern suburb of Chicago. The best protection I have found is to make sure to keep doing what I love. Forget obstacles and practice conscious gratitude for all the moments of beauty that you couldn’t experience anywhere else.

April 7, 2017

Reporters

Annie Cappetta


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

The Marlins will be represented at the All-Star Game for the 25th time on July 11 when the Midsummer ...

Most NBA mock drafts had Miami Hurricanes guard Davon Reed going late in the second round of Thursda ...

University of Miami shooting guard Davon Reed will gather with friends and family in Ewing, New Jers ...

University of Miami great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp announced on Tuesday that he pl ...

The University of Miami continues to make a hard push for five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley of ...

UM female scientists share some insight on women in science, science in Hollywood and how Wonder Wom ...

Read the latest entries from UM students who are spending part or all of their summer visiting diffe ...

UM Student Affairs Advocacy Coordinator Heather Stevens has been awarded the William Leftwich Award ...

President Julio Frenk makes the case for collaboration at eMerge Americas. ...

UM College of Engineering Dean Jean-Pierre Bardet and alumnus Rony Abovitz share the stage in a disc ...

Seven members of the University of Miami track and field program received All-ACC Academic honors fo ...

Three members of the University of Miami rowing team were named to the 2017 All-ACC Academic Rowing ...

The Miami women's basketball team will take on Michigan State at the Watsco Center in the 2017 ...

Two outgoing Miami student-athletes, Shakima Wimbley and Gracie Lachowecki, have officially been nam ...

Miami Deputy AD/SWA Jennifer Strawley has been named a member of the WBCA Board of Directors, as ann ...

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly on Thursdays during the regular academic year.