Cultural Exchange

Being a Cultural Ambassador

A cultural exchange is a two-way interaction. Be open to learning from others in your destination as well as sharing about your home country and customs.

Remember, when you travel abroad under university auspices, you are representing UW-Madison and travelers from your home.

Tips for Safely Adjusting to a New Location

  • Nothing beats firsthand experience in a country, so seek out others who have visited your destination for advice. See Conversations with Travelers for travel advice from fellow Badgers.
  • Do your research! You may want to look into your destination’s:
    • Proper etiquette and mannerisms, especially for dining, greetings, and tipping
    • Appropriate clothing
    • Transportation options
    • Closest health services
    • Internet access
    • Water availability – is it potable?
    • Local laws and regulations
    • Electricity access
    • The currency exchange rate
    • Typical weather
    • Geography
    • Key historical events
    • Holidays and festivals
    • Dining and tipping etiquette
    • Other cultural norms
  • After reaching your destination, allow yourself a couple of days to adjust to the new location and potential time zone change and get a feel for the local area.
  • When you arrive at your new “home,” examine the safety and security of your room (e.g., door and window locks, fire alarms, fire escapes, etc.) Think about how you would get out of the building and how you would secure your room if needed. The layout may be different than what you are used to.
  • Keep learning from and observing the locals! This will help you have the cultural experience you are looking for while also making you less likely to stand out in crowds.
  • Every individual’s experience is unique. See Identity Abroad for tips and resources that may help you navigate your experience abroad.


Learning from Locals

Adjusting to new surroundings can be tough. Remain extra vigilant until you develop a better “feel” for the local culture and community. 

As you settle into your new home, be sure to learn how to respond in an emergency (e.g., fire, natural disaster, or other threat). Know how to call for help and get out of the home quickly.

The world is not in your books and maps, it's out there.

J. R. R. Tolkien