Lauren Robinson is a student at Colorado State University, and is an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA in Seoul, South Korea.
Culture shock comes in many forms, and I was told to be ready for when it happened to me. What does that mean? Be ready… For what? Okay, okay… I was ready…. Not sure for what… But I was ready… Right? I learned about the waves of culture shock, and how at first you reach a peak of excitement, to a low of frustration, and then a build of acceptance, and that I should be understanding when it happened to me. Okay… I understand… I think? As I packed the last of my things in my suitcase, I made sure to bring this understanding in my carry-on for the long experience ahead.
But, in two months, the best kind of culture shock I’ve had since being here is that there hasn’t been one. I expected this huge shock of being in this unfamiliar country. I thought the language barrier would be impossible to overcome, and that I would want to head back to the comforts of my home as soon as the wheels of the plane touched Korean land. What happened to me was the exact opposite. Yes, there was the fear of the unknown, but it was easily replaced with the desire to learn. And yes, I miss my family back home, but not with the unbearable need to go back, but a new sense of gratitude and love that I wasn’t able to feel before.
Since coming here, I’ve been able to find myself and grow more than I thought was possible. I’ve met people here who will be with me for the rest of my life. It was then that I learned to take a chance and smile, when I once shied away from the crowd. I’ve walked along a sea of flowers as their fragrance pulled me in. It was then that I finally stopped and enjoyed the little beauties I once overlooked. I’ve bungee-jumped off a 55-meter platform without hesitation. I learned to take chances and not be afraid of falling, for I know I’ll always get right back up. I’ve taken a flight to Taiwan and ventured around with just me and my phone, waiting for my cousin to meet up with me later. It was then that I realized just how capable I am of doing things for myself, for if you told me 3 months earlier that I would be wandering around Taiwan alone, I would’ve said that you’re crazy.
Culture shock is different for everyone going abroad. But I want you to know that the fear of not knowing is normal. So, instead of telling you the stages of culture shock, I’m going to tell you my pieces of advice. First, know that wherever you go, things will be different, but they get easier and they get better. Second, your family is just a call away. Hearing their voices brings that comfort right through the phone. And lastly, enjoy the struggles. Make mistakes, learn, and grow.
Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.
I’m self-studying Korean language in my own country so it can’t really compare, but I’ve also found that Koreans are so friendly and relaxed that it’s difficult to notice any cultural differences.
I know it depends on the person, of course, but in general I find they’re really easy to get along with. It makes learning Korean language even more enjoyable.
I’m glad you haven’t had a culture shock and that you’re so open to new experiences. I think I would have drawn the line at bungee jumping, haha