by Work the World

Over the years, I have done my fair share of travelling.

I have attempted to rebook flights, trains and buses in a variety of languages—most of which I don’t speak. I have ordered off menus that do not boast the regular alphabet I have grown accustomed to over the last 25 years. I have had adventures in places where toilet paper doesn’t actually get flushed down the toilet. I have jumped off a 7 meter staircase into the ocean and burst both ear drums. And I’m about to travel to a country where forks and knives are not commonplace and mosquito nets are a must. Basically, I have been and will be forced outside my comfort zone more than a few times, both figuratively and literally.

Welcome to the world of Culture Shock!

Maybe you have experienced it in your own travels. Maybe you have experienced it by simply going to visit your granny in the country away from your busy flat in the city. It comes in many varieties and, no matter where it comes from, it’s a big deal. It can throw you off your game and make the world feel like it’s spinning.

To avoid getting “the dizzies” upon your entry to a whole new world (cue the Aladdin song), here are some tips I’ve gathered along the way that may help make your adjustment a bit smoother.

  1. Laugh it off. It doesn’t matter how tiny or gargantuan the difference is. Laughter is the first start to establishing a new perspective.
  2. “If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” ~Maya Angelou.  Accept that part of travelling is seeing new people, new places, new things. If everything is the same as home, then why did you just spend half your day on an airplane?
  3. Make friends. One of the many awesome things about Work The World is the houses. You’re rarely alone. You’re living with other students. It’s a social gold mine. It’s like student halls, only cleaner. The same thing goes for group travel, although I can’t vouch for its cleanliness.
  4. Find a favorite spot wherever you go. Having a place that makes you feel happy despite the crazy world you’ve jumped into helps to keep you grounded within yourself.

  5. Call home. Friends and family are a great source of comfort and they will love to hear about all the weird things you’ve encountered. Just save any potentially scary stories for once you return home. Parents have a tendency to panic!
  6. Use the opportunity to learn. Not all life’s lessons come from a text book or a power point presentation. And I’m convinced that, sometimes, the lessons you learn from travel are far more useful in the long run than the lessons that are taught in a classroom for hours on end.

Immersing yourself in a different culture can turn your world upside down even if you haven’t changed hemispheres. But the important thing to remember is that, if every culture was the same, it would be like walking into a Baskin Robbins and only being able to choose from Vanilla. Boring!

This post was written by Kaitlin Freienmuth, physiotherapy elective student, Robert Gordon University


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