Everyone who has ever tried to learn something new knows that mistakes along the way are inevitable. Learning a new language or culture is no different. One of the great things about IES is that, even if you didn’t know it yet, you are surrounded by a plethora of resources and people ready to help you out. Here are some tips to get you started on figuring out solutions to your minor issues while abroad. Keep in mind, if your problem is something you feel like is out of your control or has the capacity to hurt yourself or others, immediately tell one of your R.A.s or the director of your program.
Even the most seasoned seasoned traveler will experience the occasional bout of homesickness. Luckily, homesickness is usually only a temporary ailment. However, there are some tried and true cures. One of the easiest ways is to surround yourselves with a supportive group of friends. If you’re already feeling isolated, the worst thing you can do is hole yourself up in your room. Go out to a cool new restaurant or cultural site, go shopping or treat yourself to bubble tea. Preoccupying yourself with cool things in the country you’re in will do wonders for getting your mind off things back home.
Cultural differences extend beyond spitting on the street and squatty potties. You would be surprised to realize how much your general living habits (both yours and your roommates) are affected by cultural differences. I would say the best solution for this is try to accept the things that aren’t a big deal. Sure its annoying that your roommate is constantly watching Korean Dramas while eating fang bian mian, but does that really affect you? You may also do some things your roommate finds weird, so I say that as long as an issue is something you can live with, just try to get past it. If not, gentle subtle reminders are best. If your roommate hasn’t cleaned in a while, tidying up your area may gently remind her to do the same with her space as well.
As your RAs have probably either lived with a Chinese roommate or in a Chinese home stay, they have probably had similar experiences and are a great resource if you have any issues. But again, if you feel like any issues are out of your control or poses a hazard to yourselves or others, please see your RA or the Director of your center.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Alexis Cobau is a Junior at the University of Michigan, majoring in Chinese and International Studies with a concentration in International security, cooperation and norms. She is excited to be returning to China for the first time since her original foray into study abroad in Harbin, China on an NSLI-Y State Department scholarship as a rising senior in High School. This will be her sixth year studying Chinese and she can't wait to spend it exploring Beijing. When not practicing her Chinese characters and tones, Alexis enjoys reading, writing, drawing and cooking.</span></p>