Grand Valley State University’s Department of Modern Languages and the Padnos International Center held an event called “Culture Shock: A Thinking Globally Conversation,” on Thursday, Feb. The event was designed to create conversations around culture shock, reverse culture shock and how to overcome it for students who have studied abroad or have interest in international travel.
All international students or students who have traveled, studied, or worked abroad were encouraged to attend to share their personal experiences. Students and staff sat at a large, round table to swap travel stories and anecdotes to create a deeper understanding around culture and connection.
Students went around the table and introduced themselves, some students choosing to share what country they had traveled to or what country they were from. After introductions, they began sharing their stories of what it was like to live in another country. One international student said it almost felt unfamiliar going back to his home country when he had built a life in the United States. Another student shared a story about getting lost in another country with a dying cell phone and little knowledge of where she was. Despite facing adversity, all the students who shared said there was something special about traveling to a foreign country.
GVSU senior Nia Rahmaan studied abroad in the fall of 2023 at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy. She spent her time there studying neuroscience and taking neuroscience elective courses. Rahmaan wished she’s savored her time studying abroad, as at the time, she felt homesick for the United States. Reflecting back, Rahmaan said the experience of studying abroad is “very doable.”
“It’s worth the money you spend, the time you take, traveling to a different country you get a completely different view on life,” Rahmaan said.
Elinor Harrison, a senior at GVSU, also studied abroad at John Cabot University in Rome, studying both biomedical sciences and classics. Harrison did a six-week program while in Rome and took classes specific to her major, like an on-site history of ancient Rome course. Harrison said studying abroad was one of her favorite experiences about college.
“I do a lot of things at Grand Valley and I think this was one of the best I’ve done,” Harrison said.
Harrison said living in Italy was an “adjustment.” She said one moment of culture shock she experienced in Italy was the “casual” and “slow” Italian culture.
“Italy itself, the culture is very much slower, so recognizing that it was gonna be kind of a ‘slow down’ moment,” said Harrison.
Meghan Cai, East Asian Studies Program Coordinator and associate professor at GVSU was one of the main organizers of the culture shock event. Cai said hosting the culture shock talk made traveling abroad more approachable for interested students.
“We thought this was an important series to have because we want to highlight how important language and cultures are to the modern person,” Cai said.
With a large community of students from many different backgrounds, events like this series highlight the study abroad opportunities at GVSU and remind students to explore the world around them. To learn more about international study opportunities at GVSU, students can visit the GVSU study abroad website.