Consortium for International Education & Multicultural Studies
Welcome to the International Travel Planner!
Congratulations! You've accepted the challenge to participate in a unique foreign learning experience and we feel it's important that we share some general suggestions from some past participants.
This information has been designed for the adventuresome person who's traveling to a foreign destination. It may seem like a lot to go over, but after all, you are planning a trip abroad and you need to be physically, mentally and emotionally prepared. Subjects range from Planning Your Finances to Reentry; from Tips on How to Study to How to Pack.
The #1 suggestion from students was "Be Prepared! Read up on the country and region you'll be visiting." We'll supply you with some general information, but if you really want to be enlightened visit a library and read about the country's government, history, its past and present relations with your home country and other countries, customs, economics, local and regional holidays, etc. Do some exploring on your own. You might discover interests that you can pursue while you're visiting. One student said she wished she had arranged to see a deaf school in Mexico, because she taught deaf students in Germany.
Unfortunately, you'd be amazed at the numbers of people who don't prepare for a foreign experience, and end up ruining it for themselves, and for those around them. Hence the term "ugly American." When asked what was enjoyed least about their foreign experience, one student said, "Other Americans. There were many instances in which I was embarrassed to be in the company of some of my fellow classmates and countrymen. Many continually griped and complained, even ridiculing their hosts while present, in English."
You might also run into some people who do nothing but complain about things not being like back home. People like this are usually experiencing culture shock and aren't interested in doing anything to get out of it. Because we feel this is very important we've included details on culture shock in this material.
Remember, you're a stranger in another land. You're there to learn and participate in the culture, live and survive like a native, and enjoy all that discovering other cultures is about. "Don't let yourself be drawn into discussions and arguments about politics or religion. For one thing, you can't speak the language well enough to properly express yourself, and your focus should be on learning the language, not enacting foreign policy," wrote one student on his return evaluation.
Because you're a foreigner, local people may tend to stare more. Looking, acting and dressing like a foreigner is going to make you stand out more. Men, in some countries, may have a "macho" mentality and tend to be very sexist. Social practices differ greatly, as do customs. Because this differs from country to country, you may want to do a little research into this.
One thing that does not differ much around the world is the definition of family and home. If you'll be participating in a homestay, be prepared. Just like your country, there are families made up of single mothers and children; homes occupied by an elderly couple whose children are grown up and gone, large families in big houses with grandparents living with them, etc. Inflation, hunger, poverty, crime are all universal problems. The difference is seeing how another culture deals with these problems...and how you adapt.
One student said it best, "a homestay is what you make of it." The concept of family and its individual definition are universal. Make an effort to meet the people around you, in your "family," in your neighborhood. Most foreigners appreciate the fact that you are trying to speak their language, even when you do it horribly.
On that note we'll say have a good time, and keep an open mind.