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While Abroad


If you have developed global interests, you can further develop your global knowledge and skill sets by taking a major or minor in Global Studies. The major combines an interdisciplinary core of courses with world language proficiency, international travel and cultural immersion, and a wide selection of concentrations to fit your individual post-graduate goals. Check out the new Global Studies major or minor information from Dr. Jill Vihtelic, Chair, Global Studies. (Memo pdf)

Culture Shock

While you’re abroad, it is important to be sensitive and be connected to your new environment. Take a moment to read through the advice of seasoned travelers to keep yourself in “travel shape.”

Take time during your experience to gaze out and realize your progress. The Culture Shock spectrum is an excellent tool to guide you on this process of self-awareness and interculturalization.

Phase 1: Preliminary Phase includes awareness of the host culture, preparation for the journey, farewell activities.

Phase 2: Initial Euphoria Phase begins with the arrival in the new country and ends when this excitement wears off.

Phase 3: Irritability Phase will consist of acclimating to your setting. This will produce frustration because of the difficulty in coping with the elementary aspects of everyday life when things still appear foreign to you. Your focus will likely turn to the differences between the host culture and your home, and these differences can be troubling. Sometimes insignificant difficulties can seem like major problems. One typical reaction against culture shock is to associate mainly with other North Americans, but remember, you are going abroad to get to know the host country, its people, culture, and language. If you avoid contact with nationals of the host country, you cheat yourself and lengthen the process of adaptation.

Phase 4: Gradual Adjustment Phase begins as you become more used to the new culture. You may not even be aware that this is happening. You will begin to orient yourself and to be able to interpret subtle cultural clues. The culture will become familiar to you.

Phase 5: Adaptation and Biculturalism Phase is as you develop the ability to function in the new culture. Your sense of "foreignness" diminishes significantly. And not only will you be more comfortable with the host culture, but you may also feel a part of it. Once abroad, you can take some steps to minimize emotional and physical ups and downs. Try to establish routines that incorporate both the difficult and enjoyable tasks of the day or week. Treat yourself to an occasional indulgence such as a USA magazine or newspaper, a favorite meal or beverage, or a long talk with other Americans who are experiencing the same challenges. Keep yourself healthy through regular exercise and eating habits. Accept invitations to activities that will allow you to see areas of the host culture outside the university and meet new people. Above all, try to maintain your sense of humor.

Phase 6: Re-entry Phase occurs when you return to your homeland. For some, this can be the most painful phase of all. You will be excited about sharing your experiences, and you will realize that you have changed, although you may not be able to explain how. One set of values has long been instilled in you; another you have acquired another in the host country. Both may seem equally valid.

Academic Reminders


Keep in mind that grades received on Saint Mary’s study-abroad programs are recorded on your official Saint Mary’s transcript and calculated into your official GPA.


It is important to attend classes, complete readings and assignments, communicate with your professors regarding your academic progress, and work to your highest ability. Final grades are often based largely on a single final exam or final paper rather than a range of evaluation measurement, which is typical in the American style of grading.

Universities Abroad

Universities abroad offer different challenges when compared to the American system of higher education; students often find that they must adjust their study habits to this new learning environment.

If you have academic concerns please contact your study-abroad advisor or faculty coordinator during the semester.


Your Contact Information

Make sure that you send the Global Education Office your international address and contact information as soon as possible. abroad@saintmarys.edu

Pay Phone

Most countries sell a prepaid phone cards for the local pay phone. These cards are less expensive than US-bought cards such those sold by AT&T and MCI.

To call the US from abroad, dial 011 (the international access code) plus the country code, city code and local number. If the city code begins with a 0, delete it when dialing from the US.


The College will be contacting you on your official Saint Mary’s email address. Please make a point of checking for mail and respond timely. Keep in mind that most homes, apartments and dormitories where you will be staying are not equipped for internet access. You will most likely have limited internet access to on-campus computer facilities and internet cafes.

Seeing the World

Most students take advantage of their time abroad to explore the surrounding country-side, bordering cities, and neighboring countries.

Safe Practice:

1. Sign-Out: If you are leaving the town/city that you are studying, in you should sign out with the program director giving as much detail as possible. Leave the name(s) of your traveling companions, contact information (i.e. cell phones numbers,) where you are going, where you will be staying, events you will be attending, mode of transportation, and duration of your trip.

2. Renting Cars: Students are strongly encouraged not to drive or rent motor vehicles – this includes vespas, scooters, dirt bikes, dune buggies, cars, etc. Motor accidents are the leading cause of death of study-abroad participants.

3. Documentation: When you travel (even for a day trip) carry with you your passport, paper currency, insurance cards, and contact information for your residency abroad with you.

Security Suggestions:

1. Map out the local area: The first thing that you should explore is your own neighborhood. Get to know the street names, familiar landmarks, and the hours of operation for local businesses. Be able to walk around after dark with smart street sense.

2. Country information sheets: Having an understanding of current events, legal regulations, respect for local traditions and customs, and sensitivity towards cultural attitudes will increase your cultural awareness and personal safety.  



3. Too friendly: Do not be hesitant to refuse an invitation or to walk away from a conversation. Trust your common sense and personal instincts in unfamiliar social settings.

Travel Tips:

1. Language Cheat Sheet: Jot down some useful phrases necessary for basic communication.

2. Currency Cheat Sheet: Jot down some useful currency conversions --and count your change.

3. Luggage: Make sure that you can carry your luggage. Having luggage that is too heavy jeopardizes your mobility and may restrict your ability to make quick decisions.

© 2004 Center For Women's Intercultural Leadership, All Rights Reserved.