The Importance of Cultural Training when Studying Abroad

Cultural Training

Cultural sensitivities are a crucial part of the any individual travel experience. This is especially important when studying abroad for long-periods as a student will become more involved in the local community, therefore customs and values must be adhered in order to maintain good cultural standing whilst experiencing the phenomenal reality of cultural immersion that comes from overseas study.

When undertaking a study course in a foreign country it is important to learn about the social and cultural values that are important in that country or province. Those living in Western democracies with strong health and safety, moral and ethical principles – from democracy, gender and sexuality anti-discrimination and more – can find it difficult living for extended periods in places where such “constitutional rights” may not exist or are interpreted differently. Therefore, undertaking cultural training when considering a study break abroad is a critical next step.

What can you learn?

Did you know that nearly 14,382 under 25’s are involved in arrests or detainments due to cultural sensitivity issues across the world (1)? The great many of these issues are resolved amicably; however, five per cent will result in a penal conviction due to a misunderstanding over drugs, cultural issues or country-specific law breaking. Having to rely solely on a legal translation/interpretation service is just not worth it, getting cultural training can help focus would-be students’ minds on the skill of valuing and understanding cultural differences. Restated: Don’t count on a language translation app to get local police to give you a break.

Such training courses can evaluate and analyze the role awareness plays in creating in-depth perception of cultural sensitivities and cultural differences. By understanding the role of perception and the power of sensitivity, one can help to build the right foundation for cultural sensitivity competence. This awareness can help inform people of the importance of multi-culturalism, gender issues, sexuality and local customs and how to enhance enjoyment opportunities without breaking customs or values which lead to sensitivity-based issues relating to culture.

Understanding perception, as stated above, is also part of the wider issue of illegality. What US citizens deem to be legal and appropriate does not equate to what a foreign student in a foreign country would equate to being legal and appropriate. It is crucial that any cultural sensitivity training helps students understand particular laws and customs that are important – understanding taboos in foreign countries – which, if broken, can lead to legal or moral dilemmas for students experiencing overseas educational experiences.

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It is also important to learn about culture in a way that moves the view of “fun” away from high-energy alcohol-infused clubbing into a more focused enjoyment of cultural experiences within host countries. This is not advocating less fun but looking at enjoyment through the perspective of local people and communities. If alcohol is allowed, and remember many nations ban the consumption of alcohol especially in the Middle East, you can taste the local wonders but responsibility is key in projecting cultural sensitivities. In the Far East, drinking too much is seen as decadent and wrong. Yet, they have bars and restaurants and serve local alcoholic beverages. It is about knowing not just your own health limits but cultural differences. Follow your local family or friends leads, they are your cultural anchors in understanding the role of sensitivity and awareness in your actions as an educational tourist abroad.

What can training offer young people?

It can help create a more rounded individual. Undertaking cultural sensitivity training, a young adult, can learn about themselves by developing an awareness of social norms in both the US or western country they inhabit and placing them alongside the host country they will be experiencing. This lived experience is about developing character. However, character is also based on self-development. Undertaking a training course focused on cultural sensitivities can help to inform decision-making based on educating young people about the role of culture in local environs and how decisions can result in negative local sentiment and possibly illegal actions.


If you are a parent or a student looking at cultural sensitivity training, why not look at what such training can offer. Understanding local customs, values and beliefs can help young people experience overseas education in a safe and responsible way. This is about teaching prospective students about their actions and the consequences therein. By teaching individuals about consequences, trainers can also imbue students with a wider understanding of global cultural experiences. These two inter-connected issues are part of the training process and a core reason for why cultural sensitivity training is so popular for US and Western educated students whom undertake foreign educational breaks. Why not get in touch with a cultural sensitivity coach today who can help you understand more about culture, consequence and responsibility leading to a greater enjoyment of foreign educational experiences.


Author Bio: Mike Parsons works for a company that specialise in professional translation, transcreation and interpretation


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