Teaching and living abroad is full of adventure, professional growth, and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Immersing yourself in another culture is often exhilarating, giving you experiences and friendships unlike most others. Participate Learning’s Ambassador Teachers get to have all of these wonderful experiences, in addition to serving as ambassadors for their home country and culture.
It is also totally normal and expected to experience culture shock when moving abroad. Feelings of frustration, fatigue, and homesickness are common. In fact, it would be unusual not to experience culture shock under these circumstances! There are four stages, or phases, of culture shock: honeymoon, frustration, adjustment, and acceptance.
In the first three parts of this blog series, we went into more detail about the honeymoon, frustration, and adjustment periods. When someone first moves abroad, they are often in the honeymoon stage, feeling enamored with their new life and culture. As time goes on, they may move into the frustration period as they struggle with navigating everyday life. Once someone enters the adjustment period, they have become more comfortable in their surroundings.
In this fourth and final post of our series about culture shock, we will learn about the acceptance period, in which someone embraces the new culture, even when they don’t totally understand it. While culture shock is often hard to go through, it is entirely possible to adapt, adjust, and thrive while living abroad.
People who have moved through the other three stages of culture shock will eventually come to the acceptance phase. Acceptance happens on different timelines for everyone, but generally, people in this stage are well adjusted and thriving in their new environment. They are able to access the resources they need and feel stable in their day-to-day life.
When a person reaches the acceptance stage, that does not mean that they completely understand the culture. Rather, the person accepts that they don’t have to understand everything to thrive in their new surroundings.
Participate Learning’s Ambassador Teachers have many different experiences with culture shock. They live and work in the U.S. for up to five years, growing accustomed to a new education system and way of life. Participate Learning’s staff also have their own experiences teaching and living abroad, which is why they strive to support teachers as they go through this transition.
Jason Straus, a professional learning specialist at Participate Learning, taught English in Spain for two years. His adaptation to the culture and teaching style was made harder by the lack of support he received from his program at the beginning. That is why he helps Ambassador Teachers with their transitions and eases the challenges they face.
I am so proud to contribute to this support and training process—especially as I know firsthand what it’s like to navigate a foreign education system. I always greet new Ambassador Teachers with a big hug and a reassuring smile, and I can rest assured knowing they have all the tools to successfully navigate their new lives in the United States.
Gustavo, an Ambassador Teacher from Colombia, has devoted nine years to teaching abroad with Participate Learning on three separate tours. While it was difficult at first, he said the experience of living abroad has been absolutely worth it, helping him grow personally and professionally.
The adaptation process was hard at first since I had to deal with challenging students and a new classroom environment. However, the drive to be successful and the willingness to get the best of this experience were the fuel that kept me going, and things began to improve as I became accustomed to living in the U.S.
Kelli Finch, who taught abroad in Costa Rica for nine years, came to the acceptance phase of culture shock by recognizing that while she may always feel a little bit like an outsider, teaching abroad has changed her life for the better.
Having been in Costa Rica for nine years now, I definitely think of it as one of my homes, but people will always see me as ‘not from here.’ It’s something you adjust to and come to accept. Teaching abroad changed my life for the better, and I’m a better person for having done it. Despite all the challenges along the way, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Experiencing culture shock is a totally normal reaction to all of the adjustments someone goes through when living abroad. With a positive mindset and the right support, anyone can move through the different phases of culture shock, arriving at acceptance of their new surroundings.
Participate Learning supports educators throughout their teaching abroad journey so they can maximize their experience and enjoy personal and professional growth. If you’re considering teaching abroad, take a look at our application process and requirements.
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