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A refrain heard frequently from ex-pats worldwide is that in deciding to move to an entirely new country, their research never provided them with "insider knowledge" that would not only help hasten their acculturation into their new home country but reduce the culture shock and stress associated with immigration.

The goal of this project is to design an app that is geared towards helping immigrants adapt to their new homeland and form natural conversations with natives.

We achieved this by making an app that uses pop culture to teach about a country's culture and society. 


I was the principal UX researcher, copywriter, and prototyper.  I tasked myself with architecting and shaping the end-to-end creation and experience of an app that would hopefully help to answer the question of how one could hasten acculturation and reduce the effects of culture shock for new arrivals.


Managing culture shock and immersion in another society requires acquiring new cultural knowledge and skills  that go beyond what is  currently available on the market.


The information that is out there is normally anecdotal, varying in reliability and piecemeal.


How might we provide relevant content to help immigrants acculturate and familiarize themselves with a country’s popular culture ?

Immersing Ourselves In Research

To better understand the problem space, I performed  literature reviews to assess the resources currently available to new arrivals. The over whelming majority of information available regarding immigration, assimilation and education are all focused on children. 

However we saw merit in the findings and determined that the suggestions brought forth for acclimating to a new home country could be adapted to improve feature offerings on our app while also being appealing to both adults and children

Shows the educational information from northwest regional education labs regarding immigrant assimilation

Information that veered away from traditional sources were derived from message boards, Youtube, and Facebook groups.


Common sentiments shared amongst the message board participants are the fact there  is no central repository for knowledge, they were looking more for colloquial as opposed to book related knowledge, resources did not exist in their communities to assist them and a lot of the information they received from the message boards while extremely helpful were not always 100% accurate. 

There is no official program assisting new immigrants. You get no money, no housing, no food. It’s all up to you now. That’s the American way.

Key Takeaways:

  • Differences in attitude and expectations affect adjustment in a new country.

  • Adjustment to a new country is affected by access to support services.

  • Don't try and pressure new arrivals into fully integrating in their new society.​

  • Information provided should be vetted and accurate and should also be provided in languages other than English.

  • Centralizing and publicizing non-common knowledge information would be most helpful.


I  searched around to find out what apps may exist that are geared towards helping immigrants acculturate while providing them with local knowledge of their new homeland.

Three apps were identified; FindHello, SettleIn, & Homeis. Each app has its pros and cons and my goal was to take inspiration from the positive attributes of all three to inform the creation and offerings of the

Settle In


  • Easy to use interface.

  • Up to 6 users on the same account.


  • Content is aimed solely at refugees and not to non-refugee immigrants.



  • Available in both web and app formats.

  • Information is downloadable.


  • Difficult to use. 

  • Only available in 3 languages.



  • Created by immigrants for immigrants.

  • Has a growing presence in Canada and the U.S.


  • Content isn't clearly explained. 

  • Geared towards South Asian communities.


To obtain further insight into the problem question, I interviewed industry experts and my targeted user base.

My industry expert, Erica S. a former international student advisor with Rutgers University and an expat herself currently living in South Korea identified seven key areas that international students encounter while trying to assimilate to life in the U.S.

Of the seven, she highlighted the main issues connecting all of the international students were language barrier, access to social media platforms, and mental health.

Shows the 7 bullet points for Erica's interview


I  conducted user interviews to gain further insights into the needs of my target audience. Focus was placed on trying to understand what their pain points were when they first arrived in the U.S. or Canada.  

How they eventually acclimated to their new surroundings and what resources they wished they'd had access to prior to or upon arriving?

Knowing about history, politics, and current events makes you feel more committed to your community. It also helps you get more involved socially; people bond when they realize that they have shared interests

The key takeaways from my interviews were that there was a huge sense of culture shock, frustration over not knowing how to access resources and a desire to find a core community to help with feelings of loneliness.

Shows written interview quotes/painpoints for Zach and David


I  sought to validate the information  received via the user and expert interviews by seeking out resources associated with expat life. Most of the information was gathered from Youtube and Facebook community pages.

What I  found was that despite the source, the issues highlighted were still similar if not the same as what the interview groups brought up.

Shows the name of 3 youtube and blog channels used to understand the expat experience


How might we...

  • help immigrants cope with feelings of stress and loneliness in an unfamiliar country?

  • provide relevant content to help immigrants form natural conversations and familiarize them with the country’s popular culture?

  • connect immigrants who have gone through similar experiences to share information and build relationships?



After interviewing potential users and industry experts, I developed the user persona. The service storyboard  was used as the conceptual theme for the proposed app and the subsequent prototype.

An animated storyboard showing the everyday of the user persona Ali L.


We created a user persona, Ali Leung based on our aggregate research. The majority of individuals interviewed for this project were females of Asian descent in their early 20s.


We also made this persona a first generation immigrant and a student as most of our interviewees stated that they were the first in their family to leave their home country and that they immigrated to either the U.S. or Canada to complete graduate level course work.


The pain points identified for this persona were communication barriers, feeling limited in her general cultural knowledge of her new home country, and finding a community to feel accepted by.

Image by Gabrielle Henderson

Communication barrier Frustration

Navigating her new home country


First Generation Asian Female Immigrant 


23 years old


Graduate Student Occupation

Assimilate into new culture but still maintain close ties with her culture.



Access information that is accurate


Place mouse over image to hover and see pain points


We generated a broad range of ideas and turned the sketches into design mocks and flows. In several rounds, we tested our prototypes, observed users interacting with them, listened to their likes and dislikes.


Pictured below are early concept designs for the Culturetalk app. After we validated our concepts and assumptions, we applied the visual branding elements that we created via our mood board. 

Shows the wireframe of the profile page. There is a section to put in your picture, a user name, a red flag for China.
Search bar located at the top. Recommended for you is directly under the search bar. Explore is directly under recommeded for you.
Shows circles of varying sizes with words like brunch, dimsum, eggs benedict written in different circles


Sorting out navigation and flow

After defining  the main flow of onboarding, it was time to step back and see how it all fits into the big picture. The navigation was designed so that all the main steps are easily accessible as tabs on a single screen.

Flowchart showing how a user will navigate the app from Login, profile creation all the way to using the app.


Color Palette, Mood Board,  Style Guide & Typography


We took inspiration for the look and feel of the app from this candy corn image. We wanted vibrant colors that also played into the theme of learning. 


The color palette is a mix of oranges, yellows, blacks, and grays. The main color for this app is orange as it encourages critical thinking.

Gray represents the inactive states. Black allows the text to pop while yellow served as an attention grabber.

White and wheat were used to break up the monotony of the oranges and yellows.

A mixture of three different fonts were used throughout the app; Open Sans for the headers, Montserrat for the profile page,  and Roboto for the body text.

Color Palette & Typography

Open Sans

Aa  Aa  Aa  


Aa  Aa  Aa



Aa  Aa  Aa 


Hex: #ED9535

RGB: 255,249,241


Hex: #F1A03A

RGB: 255,249,241


Hex: #000000

RGB: 0,0,0


Hex: #F9D541

RGB: 249,213,65


Hex: #FFF9F1

RGB: 255,249,241

Medium Gray

Hex: #C4C4C4

RGB: 255,249,241


Hex: #F3C33E

RGB: 243,195,62



RGB: 255,255,255

Light Gray

Hex: #E8E6E6

RGB: 255,249,241


Active state buttons are provided an orange background while the inactive state is grayed out. We used the standard icons required by iOS to design the buttons and other icons. 

Shows the style guide


CultureTalk is an app that aims to help new immigrants better contextualize and adapt to their new environment in both the language and the culture by allowing users to search specific words and showing them analogous concepts from their home culture. 

We believe that this can improve their educational experience, because people are able to learn things better through analogies by mentally connecting concepts they are already familiar with to things they aren’t familiar with through commonalities.

Group 1a.png

Culturetalk is an app aimed at combating culture shock by helping immigrants better understand and relate to  the culture of their new homeland.  

How to use Culturetalk

Shows the search results screen with 9 bubbles. The center bubble has R&B artists written in it. While the bubble to the left says Jay Chou, the buble to the right GEM and bubble in back says Daniel Cesar


When a user opts to access the search feature, they can input a term (person, place, or thing) that is common in their home country. Culturetalk will then try and match this item to its closets Western cultural equivalent. 

The size of the bubble equals the strength of the connection to the target word based on meaning. Additionally, the distance from the target word equals the level of understanding based on cultural background. 


A user can bookmark new searched terms. The bookmarked words are compiled into a series of short lessons where the user can learn the proper way to use the term. Bookmarked lessons can be saved in the user's native language. For this example, the lessons are saved in Mandarin.

Bookmark screen written in Mandarin. It shows 4 bookmarked learning items.
Shows a picture of young asian woman named Ali Leung. Then a flag for China.


There's a gamification aspect as users can earn badges for completing lessons.  They can also create posts to help deepen learning and make connections with other people that are using the app. 


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