What do we mean when we say "culture?" Put simply, culture is total sum of institutions, believes, customs, behaviors, artifacts, language, and attitudes of a particular group of people. It is learned and transmitted from generation to generation. It is cumulative and ever changing. It is the way you think, act, speak, and walk as well as what you think about, why you act the way you do and what you say. It is the total way of life of a person. Your culture affects everything you do and it colors the way you view other cultures.
When two cultures come into contact, both are changed in some way. Some are affected negatively, some are affected positively, but none escapes influence. Adapting to a new culture and learning from it (in essence, coming into contact with a different culture and being changed by it) is what volunteering is about. No matter how well you are prepared; there are many things in a culture that you cannot find in books. This is not simply meeting new and unexpected things, but also failing to meet what you would never have believed would be missing from any culture.
However, this change can cause uneasiness. This happens especially when the contact of cultures involves extreme differences, or even contradictory views or customs. Dealing with this uneasiness is part of the process of immersion. However, it is definitely an experience that will help grow, learn more about yourself and understand better what life is about.
In the following figure you will see the different stages of the process: