Culture Shock Absorber

Culture Shock Absorber

Tool Objectives:

  1. To develop greater awareness of multiple perspectives on intercultural encounters.
  2. To recognize the various categories of automated thoughts and identify one’s own style of reacting to intercultural differences.
  3. To moderate group openness to actively learning about culture-specific patterns of interpersonal interactions.

Tool Description:

This tool is to be facilitated by the course professor as a group activity and preferably mid-way into the international experience. This highly participative activity focuses on facilitating an eight-step process in which students reflect on unpleasant or perplexing encounters with the host culture. In doing so, students begin to understand their reactions to complex intercultural experiences and to identify various styles or categories for describing immediate reactions to difference. Such group sharing and reflection can begin the process of collectively seeking to understand cultural differences and intercultural encounters.

Tool Procedures:

  1. Begin by asking students to think of an event that led to an unpleasant emotional reaction or perplexing encounter with the host culture. (This encounter does not necessarily have to involve host nationals.) Ask one or two students to describe an encounter to the larger group, but be prepared to share one of your own to get the discussion started. It is important to position this tool at the outset as a culture learning activity while maintaining a respectful and nonjudgmental posture toward the host culture.2. Introduce the classification categories for automatic thoughts. Have students provide culture-specific examples of each (see Appendix 1).
  2. Using the 3 pg. handout, give students approximately 10-15 minutes to work through the eight-step process. This can be done individually or in pairs. The course professor should facilitate a group debriefing of the eight steps with 2-3 examples (preferably using student experiences). Be open to expanding the discussion to include historical, social, political, anthropological themes and so forth.
  3. Summarize the activity by emphasizing the need to reflect on intercultural encounters from multiple perspectives.
  4. Recommend that students refer to other sources for interpreting their experiences (e.g., host nationals, courses professor, and relevant literature). Not having an accurate interpretation and reflection on cultural experiences can lead to misunderstandings, the perpetuation of stereotypes and a failure to learn about the host culture.

Tool Evaluation:

Evaluation not needed. The activity might also be used as a part of a larger, graded assignment in which students are asked to engage in a more rigorous, reflective cultural learning process. This could also be used as one component of a larger, course portfolio.

Tool Time Requirement:

Approximately 1 hour (pre-departure). Allow more time if optional assignment is made.

Tool Author(s):

Adapted by A. Ogden, 2009. Original source unknown.

Tool Handouts [.doc or .docx]:
Culture Shock Absorber Handout

Mark Beirn


An experienced global researcher and administrator, Mark Beirn brings a critical approach to risk management, factoring structural racism and identity-based violence into his rubric for supporting equitable global mobility.

Specialization Areas:

– Global Risk Management
– Education Abroad
– Diversity, Equity, Inclusion in International Education
– Health and Safety
– Curriculum Development


Stephen Appiah-Padi​


Stephen Appiah-Padi is an international educator with several years of teaching and administrative experience in both 4 and 2-year HEIs. An experienced global education practitioner-scholar, with a demonstrated history of success in the field.

Dr. Appiah-Padi has a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada in Educational Policy & Administration with a specialization in International/Intercultural Education.

At Northwestern College, he provided oversight in the administration of education abroad and international student services. In Lansing, Michigan, he first oversaw diversity and intercultural education at Lansing Community College, and later created the Center for International and Intercultural Education (CIIE) which merged intercultural engagement and international education programs of the institution, and he became its first director. Additionally, Dr. Appiah-Padi taught a course, “Diversity in the American Workplace”, to undergraduate management students of the College. In his current position, he provides leadership and vision in advancing strategic internationalization initiatives, including international partnerships and study abroad programs at Bucknell University.

Dr Appiah-Padi has created and facilitated several workshops for faculty and staff development in higher education and in business organizations. He has presented at several national and international conferences. In NAFSA, among several volunteer leadership positions, he has served as Dean of the Fundamentals of Intercultural Communication Workshop, the Leadership Development Committee member, Chair of the Africa Special Interest Group, and a Fellow of the Global Fellowship Program for mentoring emerging leaders of internationalization in African HEIs. He currently serves as a member of the NAFSA Board of Directors.

Subscribe to Gateway Edge Newsletter & Spotlight Episodes

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.

Rosa Almoguera


Dr. Rosa Almoguera has worked as an international educator for over twenty years. She was trained as a Hispanic Philologist at the Universidad Complutense, in Madrid, and did her M.A. at the University of Pennsylvania. Her Ph.D., from Universidad Complutense included a field study and edition of written balladry “Romancero”. During many years Rosa combined teaching and her role as a senior administrator at the Fundación Ortega-Marañón in Toledo, Spain. At the Foundation, Rosa directed and, in many cases created, programs for the University of Minnesota, Notre Dame, Princeton, Ohio State, Arcadia, and the University of Chicago. She has also been a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota, University of Portland, and Interamericana de Puerto Rico.

Beginning in 2016, Rosa works as an international education consultant for both public and private European and US higher education institutions. Rosa has been successful in developing new partnerships and programs, as well as helping improve already existing ones.

Rosa is a member of Forum and NAFSA and has presented with higher education professionals on innovative academic and research programming, STEM in study abroad and Nationalism in Europe. Rosa is currently completing the final Professional Certification from the Forum on Education Abroad.