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Previous risk factors that increase the cultural shock

"Why do some foreign college students find it hard to adjust when they study abroad?"

While there is no magic recipe to prevent the struggle that a student who is temporarily in Barcelona will go through, ​​after talking with more than 450 foreign university students, I have observed that they share some previous common factors that hinder their adjustment to a foreign country . Among them:

  • In the past, they have had difficulty adapting to new contexts (eg. they've struggled to adjust to a new school, to a change of residence, transitioning from high school to college, etc.).
  • They have experienced anxiety when being exposed to changes.
  • It is the first time they are so far from their families and usually struggle when they do so.
  • In social situations they usually feel terribly anxious and can't avoid being continuously self-centred. Such anxiety tends to increase especially in new social situations.
  • They fear big cities.
  • They suffer anxiety when things are not under control.

How can we take these factors into account to help students adjust successfully?

While these previous factors do not act as a universal law, which always occurs in any context, they indicate past patterns that can be probability repeated while abroad. So if the universities that host foreign students, Study Abroad Programs, teachers and students themselves have them in mind, they may be alert, act more quickly and provide sooner the support they need to successfully adapt to this adventure of studying abroad.