Transform Culture Shock into a Cultural Adventure

Studying Abroad? If you’ve decided to pursue international university studies, it’s likely that one of your objectives is to gain an appreciation of the new culture in which you will interact. For some, the shock of culture absorption may be overwhelming. It’s natural and common for any traveler to experience a bit of anxiety in exploring the unknown, but the key for any study abroad student is to transform that culture shock into a cultural adventure!

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Embrace the New and Unusual

In many cases, the country in which you’ve chosen to study will be vastly dissimilar from the one in which you’re accustomed. One may experience differences in language, RomaVeneziaCortona2011Uno 098cuisine, mode of transportation, style of dress, music, and a host of other concepts. The important thing to remember: diversity is the reason you chose to study abroad in that particular country. So, embrace the new and the unusual, get your fingers sticky with it. Before long, what feels strange will become familiar.FullSizeRender (4)

 

Ride the Emotional Wave

The mix of emotions you experience may include loss, fatigue, stress, anxiety, and confusion. Some degree of culture shock is inevitable, and the range of emotions at any given time typically transition through four stages:cropped-402px-bocca_della_verita.jpg

  1. the honeymoon stage
  2. the frustration phase
  3. the depression/isolation stage, and
  4. the adjustment and acceptance phase

Awareness of these stages may help alleviate the issue, and may provide a smoother path to the final stage. As long as one lives the cultural transition fully, rather than resists this normal phenomenon, the experience will feel much more positive, much sooner.

Remember, what you will learn and make your own will soon become a part of you, a worldliness to your character that you will always carry with you. Embrace the adventure, and you may learn to speak a new language. You might add an entire play list of ethnic music that comforts or drives you. You might enhance your wardrobe with a style of dress you might never have considered. Hopping onto a subway, or biking, may even become your primary mode of transport when you return home, a practice you might have never tried had you not been exposed to it elsewhere. The novelty of the adventure will soon become your reality, and you’ll reap the lifelong benefits of embracing it.

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Know Before You Go, and Ease into the Adventure

Learn the language now, and later. Sign up for local, short-term language immersion classes, or longer-term classroom study to enhance conversation in your host country. There are also a number of home computer programs, like Rosetta Stone, and apps, like Duolingo, Babel and iTranslate, that will assist preparation for the trip, and aid assimilation once arrived.

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Learn the culture, and use it before you go. Practice cooking the local fare or visit restaurants that serves that country’s cuisine. Listen to the host country’s popular music. Live stream the host country’s popular TV shows. Research the lesser known historic and artistic gems, and become well versed in the popular ones before arrival. Involvement and practice of the host country’s customs and practical life before you go will better your chances of achieving a higher comfort level, sooner, once you arrive.

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Chat on-line with study abroad students who’ve been through the process and have studied or are studying in the host country, for advice that might range from packing, traveling, and coping with homesickness, all the way to ideas for places to eat, visit, or shop. There are many public on-line forums where international students gather and provide advice, as well as private group chats among those students traveling through a school community.

When you Get There, Achieve a Balance

When you get there, where the goal is to embrace the adventure, it’s also important to stay true to one’s self.

  • Try new cuisine on a regular basis, but when you’re feeling blue, offset it with a visit to your favorite fast-food chain or cook up something that you’d normally fix at home.
  • Pick up a local trinket or don clothing that reflects the local custom, but take some time to revel in the items you bring from home, like photos, a teddy bear, or a favorite sweater.
  • Attend music performances that typically reside outside your genre, but keep your favorite tunes plugged in on your way to class.RomaVeneziaCortona2011Uno 215
  • Learn to bike ride through traffic or hillsides, but walk or grab a taxi when the mood moves you.
  • Join a club or volunteer to become a part of the society around you, but feel free to kick back with a newspaper about home.

In other words, when most of the day or evening is spent tackling something brand new and outside your comfort zone, be sure to balance the challenge with a taste of home – your transition will be smoother and less intimidating. You’ll be more likely to look forward to the next challenge, rather than resist it if you allow yourself an occasional taste of your own culture.

Get by with a Little Help from Your Friends and Family

Don’t underestimate the power of companionship. Whether you seek the tutelage of a professor, the commonality of a roommate with a similar background, or even a brand new group of classmates, it’s important to stay connected. Share your experiences, and you just might learn a few things. Also, meeting locals is a great way to immerse in the culture, and they may end up friends in which to visit or correspond long after you’ve returned home, or otherwise contacts in which to network should you extend your stay.IMG_3202 (2)

Finally, stay in touch with those back home. They will boost your morale, and keep you grounded during those times when you’re a little tired of spreading your wings. Upon return, sharing your adventure will be more meaningful if others have stayed abreast of your ongoing activity while you’re away.IMG_2070

 

All in all, international studies provides many benefits, including exposure to an entirely different culture. Often times, culture shock may hinder a student’s opportunity to fully appreciate all that their host country has to offer. Live it fully, don’t resist the mix of emotions. Learning to transform culture shock into a “cultural adventure” will ensure that you will benefit most from this rewarding experience.ToscanaUno 261

Author Gina Fava studied abroad in Rome, Italy during college. Much of her suspense thriller,  THE SCULPTOR, is based on her “cultural adventure.” The mysterious serial killer in her story is entirely fictional, or so she says. Learn more at www.GinaFava.com.

 

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THE MODERN HEROINE: A Mystery Writers Panel

 

How will Gina Fava’s fierce female characters,

ANA MALIA from THE RACE,

and MARA SILVESTRI from THE SCULPTOR,

factor into a  panel discussion with mystery writers involving

“the modern heroine”

JOIN US

May 3, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.
Mystery Writers Panel: “The Modern Heroine”
Gina Fava, Sharon Healy-Yang, Judith Copek
Friends of the Swansea Library
First Christian Congregational Church
1113 GAR Highway, Swansea, MA

And we’ll be selling and signing copies of all our novels!

SIENA’S PALIO: THRILLING TRADITION, COMPETITION, & PRIDE

Imagine that your hometown team will be competing in the biggest sporting event of the year, as it does every year, right in the center of town. Pack the venue with over 50,000 spectators, both local and international, all there to see your team participate. Now bring on all the fanfare and hoopla in the days leading up to the main event, including an open-air feast and a ritual blessing of the key player. Now imagine that this monumental sporting event lasts just seventy-five seconds…

Palio Aug 1995 news

For the people of Siena, Italy, this fantasy is a reality. Considered Italy’s most famous annual sporting event, Palio is a horse race that combines pageantry, competition, and civic pride. The Tuscan hillside town of Siena fans out from the central, shell-shaped Piazza del Campo town square, where the race is run. It extends outward, through the maze of cobblestone alleyways, stone houses, shops, and smaller piazze. Siena is divided into seventeen contrade, akin to the boroughs of Manhattan, in which neighborhoods aspire to a passionate regionalism based on centuries old tradition. Since the Middle Ages, ten of the contrade vie one another for bragging rights achieved by a victory in a bare-back horse race that’s one lap around the piazza. The first horse to cross the finish line, with or without the rider, wins.

The race, held twice a year on July 2 and August 16, is preceded by as much pomp and circumstance as the post-race victory parties. Participants and spectators have been brought to their knees over a loss, or a win. Every stage is critical, from the initial presentation of the horses, to the “tratta” in which the horses and jockeys are matched. It continues with the five preliminary runs, to the final rehearsal dinner, to the blessing of the horse and jockey inside the contrada’s parish church, and finally to the race.

Palio July 1981

I attended my first Palio with my dad when I was ten years old. With my Aquila scarf wrapped securely around my shoulders, I cheered parade flagbearers marching down the ancient cobblestone streets while my gelato ran down my arm. We watched a trial run. Serious business, as men in suits converged to hash out the players’ worth, similar to a football draft, only with horses. My favorite part was the pre-race dinner. I couldn’t believe that with all the eating, the drinking, the singing, and the cheering, they had yet to run the race! Though we missed the main race, I’d experienced something truly memorable.

Palio Aug 1995

Years later, my husband, Jamie, and I made it to the big event. We packed into Piazza del Campo with my cousins in early morning…and waited. For hours beneath the August sun, the piazza filled with spectators, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, or peering out from hotel windows overlooking the track. Fans from competing contrade would argue, laugh, make bets, and proudly wave their flags’ colors. At dusk, the tension was palpable. The crowds roared as the horses cantered into the piazza. The tradition of centuries past, and the competitive spirit roiling between the contrade, and the anxiety built up over days of preparation all came down to a race lasting just over a minute. In one mad dash around the track, colors blazed past us in a blur. Men, women, and children shouted and chanted the names of their contrada. Cameras flashed. Hoof-beaten dust flew into the humid Sienese twilight. I don’t remember who won. But I bet it was Aquila.

Like a good thriller, Palio’s suspense builds to a satisfying climax that resonates with fans until long after it ends. Want to live the thrill? Head to Palio. Want to read about it? My latest mystery novel, FORMULA, features Palio, and it’s coming soon!

Gina Fava’s THE SCULPTOR wins GOLD for Best Mystery/Thriller Ebook in the Indie Pub Awards!

 THE SCULPTOR has won the GOLD medal for the Best Mystery/Thriller E-Book in the 19th Annual, 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards.

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I’m so honored and thrilled. Thank you, sincerely, to the judges, and most humbly to every one of my readers.

Congratulations to all the winners, and if you write everyday, you win everyday.

E3. BEST MYSTERY / THRILLER E-BOOK

GOLD: The Sculptor, by Gina Fava (Steepo Press)

SILVER: Twisted Vine, by Toby Neal (Self-Published)

BRONZE (tie): All Good Deeds, by Stacy Green (Twisted Minds Press)

Last Words, by Rich Zahradnik (Camel Press)

Click Here to Buy a Copy of THE SCULPTOR.

Click Here for the full list of the all those who submitted their work and medaled.

Congratulations to all who submitted, as the work is the ultimate reward.

 

Review of Jeff Klima’s L.A. ROTTEN: A TOM TANNER MYSTERY

Are you a reader who enjoys a gritty story with a still-beating touch of heart? Jeff Klima’s L.A. Rotten is an intriguing and refreshingly entertaining hard-boiled mystery.

L.A. Rotten: A Tom Tanner Mystery

Book Details
Genre: Suspense Thriller
Published by: Random House Publishing Group – Alibi
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Number of Pages:

Purchase Link: LA Rotten bk cvr
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Book Synopsis:

L.A. Rotten is a thriller about a cleanup man entangled in the viscera of a crime spree as a reluctant sleuth.

My Review:

The perfectly flawed characters, the subtle, edgy humor, and the description so vivid that I found it hard to breathe through my nose in some scenes, all make this a must-read novel for those who enjoy raw, “pulpy” mysteries, akin to Stieg Larsson’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Protagonist Tom Tanner’s character arc, from a man in tune with his basest instincts to one who finally gets in touch with the shred of humanity he forgot he had, is delicious, as the satisfying, issue-ridden secondary characters all struggle to push him over that edge throughout. The reader will surely find that the “A”ntagonist reeks of just the right amount of bile and intrigue to make him a terrifyingly interesting yet astonishingly credible serial killer. Klima must get to work on the next one – I need another Tanner fix!

Engrossing and satisfying, L.A. Rotten is a hard-boiled thriller that readers will be unable to put down.

My rating: 4 out of 5 FAVA beans.

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The author, Jeff Klima, an expert cleanup artistjeff klima in Orange County, writes what he knows, and it shows. He’s also written, The Dead Janitor’s Club, and you can follow him on Facebook and Twitter, or visit his website at jeffklima.com.