Adapting to new cultures on your placement year

Guest BloggerOn Placement, Second Year

In the coming months, you will be starting a new chapter abroad! Wherever you go in the world, whether it is Australia or South America, Europe or the Far East, it is important to do as much preparation as you can before you start your next big step.

Having lived abroad in Belgium for a year, here are my top tips to fight against the culture shock and how you can make the most out of your time abroad.

Learn a new language

Your placement year may be in a country where English is not its official language. This can cause frustration when communication becomes difficult, especially when asking for directions. This can be simply solved by your preparation beforehand. Free apps and websites, such as Duolingo and Babble, can expose you to useful phrases and words which you will start to recognise and feel comfortable when communicating to others. As your time abroad goes by, you will start to recognise in yourself that you are picking up more words and sentences, and that’s a huge accomplishment!

During the times when you are not studying or working, you are most likely to be travelling. If you are travelling to places where very little English is spoken, a wordless travel book will be useful for you. All you do is point at pictures to communicate. This can allow your travel experience to go as smooth as it can possibly go.

Research, Research, Research

Before you move abroad, research the country beforehand. The internet has a lot of information about what a particular country is like. Utilise the information available.

Websites such as Lonely Planet can tell you all you need to know about your chosen location. It can also provide you with some useful information about some of the etiquettes which you need to know before you arrive. Remember what might seem normal in the UK may be considered rude in another country. Researching beforehand will expose you to some of the cultural norms which will allow you to adapt better when you are there.

Aston will have contacts of current students who are in that particular country. Contact them and get as much advice from them. They can also provide you some guidance with what to expect when you move abroad. Aston may also be able to provide you with contacts of final year students who have completed their year abroad, and it can be really useful to get as much advice from the students who have been there and done it.

If you are working abroad, contact the company to see if they can put you in contact with current interns. Talking to interns can give you some guidance on what to expect from the company. This can also provide some reassurance before you start as you will already know someone who is working there.  

Dealing with culture shock

What is culture shock? A simple Google search defines culture shock as the impact of moving from a familiar culture to one which is unfamiliar. This may not occur immediately and it will hit people at different times. Moving abroad can be very overwhelming, no matter where you go. But talking about it really helps. For myself, I had a friend who was also working abroad in the Netherlands so we were able to talk to each other whenever it got difficult. Talk to your friends, family or Aston if you ever feel homesick. Always remember that you have got to give yourself time to adjust and adapt to your new environment. Moving abroad can be daunting and scary but keep in mind that you are not alone and the skills that you gain from your time abroad can be life-changing.  

Written by Hina Aziz, Careers and Placements Associate