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Preparing for School

Culture & Living Abroad


Culture generally encompasses the knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, hierarchies, motives, behaviors, skills and other material traits of racial, religious, or social groups. It can be seen in the way these groups interact with those within, as well as those outside, their group. This includes the languages they speak, the foods they eat, and what things are important or unimportant to them. When you go abroad, you will come into contact with people from another culture. You may find that it is significantly different from that of the United States and your home culture. Learning about the culture and embracing it can make your experience much deeper and richer. You are not required to agree with or like every cultural difference while abroad, but it is important that you be aware of them and respect them.

Culture Shock & Living Abroad

The term culture shock is used to describe the reaction that can occur when you go abroad and/or come into contact with ways of life that are different than your own. More specifically, it is caused by the stress of entering and trying to adjust to the strange new culture. There may be differences in the degree of shock experienced, depending on how different the culture is from your own. Even for those that are perceived as more similar to American culture, small differences can create some culture shock. Other factors such as personal traits, goals, and attitude will influence your level of culture shock as well. Symptoms of culture shock include extreme homesickness, depression and sadness, disorientation and isolation, loss of focus, and more.

Generally, you can expect to go through a few different stages as you adjust. At first you will likely experience a "honeymoon" period as you initially come into contact with the culture. It will be exciting and exhilarating as you discover new and different things. This stage will eventually transition as you begin to realize the differences in cultural characteristics that may manifest in symptoms of culture shock. For most, this period is mild and can be overcome with effort, willingness to learn, and with help from friends and advisors. The more you know about the culture and how it works, the more you will be able to adapt to it and manage culture shock. Making friends and talking to them about your home country and culture, while learning about them and their culture, can be a great way to overcome culture shock. If you find that you are having extreme difficulty managing your culture shock, please talk to someone about it. You can contact family or friends at home, the Study Abroad Office, or seek counseling.

After this stage you will find that you begin to move forward and adapt. While you may not feel as exhilarated as you did in the initial "honeymoon" stage, you will establish things you can find enjoyment in, develop relationships, and come away with an incredible learning experience, in regards to learning about the host country, about yourself, and about your home and culture.

The following link has more information as well as exercises you can to do learn about culture and culture shock.

·  What’s up with culture?! 

Health & Safety

The health and safety of participants is a top priority for the Study Abroad Office. Every effort is made to ensure that students, faculty, and staff traveling abroad have the resources and information they need  for a successful study abroad experience. Though absolute safety abroad cannot be guaranteed, just as it cannot be guaranteed in the United States, we are committed to taking the necessary steps to maximize student safety.

We have certain protocols and guidelines in place to minimize risk to our student participants:

  • We monitor U.S. government advisories, considering both those issued by in-country embassies and consulates and by the Department of State in Washington D.C..
  • We register all program participants with the U.S. Embassy in their host country via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) -
  • Our staff remains in contact with the students abroad and updates them on any travel warnings or potential threats in their area.
  • Students may connect with Study Abroad Office staff 24-hours a day. During business hours they may use the main office number. When outside of business hours, students who call the main business line will be directed to the UWM Campus Police, who will then be able to connect them with an on-call administrator.
  • Students attend mandatory pre-departure orientation sessions during which health and safety issues are covered in detail.

Health Insurance

The University of Wisconsin System has mandated that all students participating in foreign programs sponsored by its Universities enroll in a comprehensive health insurance plan offered though Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI). The fee for this insurance is included in the cost of all study abroad and exchange programs. Information about CISI insurance coverage, including how to log into the portal to print your insurance card and how to file a claim can be found here (LINK Insurance).

Health, Physical or Learning Disabilities

If you have any health, physical or learning disabilities which would require special assistance during your study abroad program, click the following for information about accommodation (LINK Campus Resources).


Students participating in all UWM study abroad programs are required to follow the laws of the country in which they are traveling. Students must comply with all rules and regulations contained within the UWM Student Handbook ( ). While participating in UWM study abroad and exchange programs, students are representing both UWM and the United States and should conduct themselves according to the applicable laws and policies and respect the cultural expectations of the countries in which they are traveling.

Independent Travel

Study abroad students are encouraged to travel to other destinations in their free time. However, if you plan to do any extra traveling, please share your travel plans with others (especially your program's faculty leader if applicable). Independent travel should not disrupt the academic requirements of the program. Your faculty leader or other on-site staff should also be made aware of your travel plans, such as destination, estimated dates of travel, and where you will be staying. This is not intended to restrict you, but is a matter of personal safety. It is your responsibility to research potential travel destinations and use only reputable service providers.

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