Culture Shock Story a project by Meri Collazos

Culture Shock Story

About the project

In order to investigate diverse forms of portraying intercultural awareness and identity creation within new media, I developed a website called “Culture Shock Story” (  The website is about intercultural experiences of students from UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) who are international students or who have been studying abroad. The main topics of the research are intercultural competency and creativity enhancement, and the second is the use of mediation/mediatization in up-and-coming new media formats. The underlying focus of the multimedia project is to examine the personal accounts of culture shock experiences through media. utilizes three different types of media narratives: studio interviews, digital stories, and a personal documentary film. Using these three types of narrative is useful to look at how representations of identity can work in new media projects, while it also fosters alternative ways of communication.

The collection of studio interviews with each of the participants is an exercise to look at the mediatization/mediation of the discourse. It is also an exercise for self-evaluation and self-awareness. After each participant has responded to the same set of questions, they work out a creative ordering exercise. The results are “Collective Culture Shock Story” (CCSS) and “5 Toys Story.” This last one, consists in giving a meaning to a collection of five wind-up toys and telling their own story while explaining why they chose to put the objects following that order. Also, the website displays a collection of digital stories that the participants created in order to narrate personal stories related to intercultural experiences.

Digital Storytelling (DST) is about ordinary people creating their own stories about their real personal experiences.  As part of my Academic Training, I have been working with the UMBC New Media Studio in several Digital Stories projects.  These Digital Stories offer a view of personal accounts of a culture shock experience in a very personal way. Here are some examples of how DST can be used to mediate culture shock experiences.

Finally, I have directed a documentary film—“Moving Between Cultures or My Friends”—depicting some every-life aspects of four of the participants. It is an observational and reflexive documentary film that tries to reveal the different stages of the culture shock by moving sequentially through the narrative. That is, it focuses on the U-Shape of the students’ experiences: moving up, the tip of the u, downwards, to the lowest point of the u, and then, finally, back up to the tip.

All the participants in the project are students who have been living abroad. I include myself in this group, and I try to disclose my experience by making a personal documentary film. In fact, it is a Do-it-yourself-project (DIY), as is the entire project including the website. Another purpose of the research is how new technologies can facilitate the creation of these types of projects in environments such as education and entertainment. It is not only about the advantages of digital media to perform the product itself (e.g. website, video) but also the social benefits of new technological innovation. One example of that is the use of Facebook to gather the participants and organizing the project. An anecdote that exemplifies that spirit is that for my zero budget documentary film I could find “free” music in “community audio” and I could contact its author, via Facebook to ask him for the official permission to use this music for my documentary. He totally agreed, and in exchange he is also going to use the documentary to promote his songs.
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About Culture Shock:

"Culture shock is the difficulty people have adjusting to a new culture that differs markedly from their own." (

"Many of us are striving to produce a blend of all the cultures which seem today to be in clash with one another. No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive". -Mahatma Gandi

"Culture is a mold in which we are all cast and it controls our daily lives in many in suspected ways...Culture hides more than it reveals, and strangely enough, what it hides, it hides most effectively from it's own participants" -Edward T. Hall

"America is a poem in our eyes" -Ralph Waldo Emerson

"No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow"-Lin Yutang