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EAC / Preparing for Departure / Intercultural Adjustment

Factors Important To Successful Intercultural Adjustment:

Open-Mindedness. The ability to keep one's responses flexible and receptive to new stimuli is crucial for this factor. Open-minded is demonstrated by a willingness to try to understand and appreciate (although not necessarily adopt) the values and beliefs of others, and the fact that a different point of view is valid.

Sense of Humor. A sense of humor is important because in another culture, there are many things which lead one to weep, get angry, be annoyed, embarrassed, or discouraged. The ability to laugh things off, and not take one's self or the situation too seriously will help guard against despair.

Ability to Cope with Failure. The ability to tolerate failure is critical because everyone fails at something overseas. Persons who go overseas are often those who have been successful in their home environments and thus may have rarely experienced failure. Such experience with failure is important in developing a range of coping skills.

Communicativeness. Many situations in other cultures are confusing and ambiguous. A successful candidate needs to be able to express one's own feelings and thoughts, as well as to be able to ask for help in interpreting unfamiliar behaviors and subtle cultural cues. They should also be able and willing to listen to others express their thoughts and feelings.

Flexibility and Adaptability. The ability to respond to or to tolerate the ambiguity of new situations is a crucial factor in cross cultural adjustment. This may mean having to alter and/or give up familiar behavioral patterns, and become familiar with or take on new behaviors of the host family and culture.

Curiosity. Curiosity is the demonstrated desire to know about other people, places, ideas, values, etc. This skill or personality trait is important for intercultural travelers because they are constantly being confronted with new and different events and behaviors, and a genuine interest in those differences usually leads to positive responses.

Positive and Realistic Expectations. It is well known that students choose to spend time overseas for a variety of reasons, some publicly stated and many private ones. It is important to notice how realistically the student understands that this experience will be difficult but worth the reward if s/he perseveres.

Tolerance for Differences. A person will need to be able to tolerate, for a long period of time, people who have different values, beliefs and practices. This implies an inner strength to be able not only to learn about others but also to feel secure within one's self in the midst of others who may feel, look, and act in a different manner.

Positive Regard for Others. This factor includes the ability to express warmth, empathy, respect, and positive regard for other persons. It is the ability to perceive and "feel" a situation from the point of view of others without judging or reacting negatively. People are most effective when they are able to communicate this empathy to others even when a situation or behavior may make them feel uncomfortable.

A Sense of Self. A clear, secure feeling about oneself is usually present in individuals who are neither weak nor overbearing in their relationships with others. Persons with this strong, secure sense of themselves stand up for what they believe but do not cling to those beliefs in the face of new information or perspectives. A good sense of self is also expressed in an individual's ability to understand and appreciate the values and beliefs of others while not being overly fearful of losing oneself in the process.

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