The Best Kind of Culture Shock

Chloe Rhoades-Barnes is a student at the University of Colorado – Boulder and an ISA Featured Photo Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Dunedin, New Zealand

It’s been one week. One week without American food. One week without the daily political blast on my newsfeed. And one week without home. Adjusting to a new home is always going to be a challenge, culturally, socially, mentally, and physically (I’m looking at you, jet lag). Getting used to a completely different culture can be scary, especially when having to look the opposite way when crossing the street, or experiencing anxiety when being away from home for so long. But, culture shock can be incredibly eye-opening and life-changing as well. Here’s the positive side to culture shock that so many people seem to miss:

1.) The Disorientation

“Disorientation” can sound bad, especially when talking about fatigue from jet lag, or getting used to a different school system, but it’s part of the readjustment into a new way of living. Becoming newly orientated with a place is part of the excitement of study abroad. Finding my way around a new city on my own without my phone was a new level of difficult for me, but I survived. Your independence grows.

This is one of the beautiful churches I discovered while losing my way around Dunedin.

You’re a little confused and lost, especially when it comes to which way to turn your head when crossing the road, but it’s a good kind of lost – the kind where you know you’re heading in a good direction, but you’re enjoying the journey before you get there.

2.) Changing your routine

New Zealand has pushed me out of my comfort zone in more ways than I can count. Meeting new friends, taking new classes, and changing how you see the world are underrated ways culture shock can benefit your life. I consider myself a shy person before getting to know people, but here, I branch myself out, challenging myself to make as many connections and friendships as possible. New Zealand attracts people from every walk of life, and I aim to discover as much about others as I can.

Mt Cook.


Long Beach.


Discovering new places with new friends.

Traveling to a new country where you don’t know anybody is tough! Getting to know new people is fun and exciting! Especially when you get to hear their kiwi accents. Before, I was was stuck in an American bubble, but New Zealand has allowed me to gain new study habits, new friends, a new way of living, and a new way of viewing and appreciating the world.

3.) The Lifestyle

Culture shock had its biggest, but best effect on me because of the kiwi way of living. In America, it’s always on the go, the wheels always spinning. What are you doing after you graduate? What are your plans for the future? How much do you make? Kiwi and Māori culture are very different, but very beautiful in contrast. There is less focus on the overall picture and how you’ll spend your future, but rather, are you enjoying yourself in the present. Time here seems slower, because people here don’t care as much about what you do, but rather who you are and how you treat people. The New Zealand views might have something to do with it…who could be unhappy here when places like these are in your backyard?

Lake Wanaka.


Church of the Good Shepherd.


River through Mt. Aspiring National Park.

I know lifestyles can be different in every country, but this has been my favorite form of culture shock because it’s different from what I know.

Thank you culture shock for showing me how to love my new home.

The world awaits…discover it.

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