Cultural Adjustment

Everyone who moves to a new country experiences a period of adjustment and adaptation to the new culture. This is sometimes referred to as "culture shock" because of the difficulty of leaving your home culture and living in a new culture. It includes the shock of a new environment, meeting lots of new people, and learning the ways of a different country. It also includes being separated from the important people in your life, such as family, friends, colleagues, or teachers.

Culture shock is entirely normal, usually unavoidable, and it does not mean anything bad about you or your new home. Actually, it can be a very significant learning experience, because it makes you more aware of your own culture as well as the new culture you have entered. It will give you valuable skills that will serve you in many ways in the future - it's part of the benefit of international education.

Some typical symptoms of culture shock are:

  • Extreme homesickness
  • Loneliness
  • Avoiding contact with other people, especially Americans
  • Negative feelings and hostility toward American culture and people
  • Anger, frustration and confusion
  • Tiredness or need for excessive amounts of sleep
  • Boredom
  • Inability to concentrate or work
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of enjoyment in daily activities
  • Lack of confidence
  • Feelings of inadequacy or insecurity
  • Depression and feelings of helplessness

Although you can't stop culture shock, there are some things you can do to make yourself feel better. Here are some ideas:

  • Understand that your reactions are normal
  • Be open-minded and curious about your new environment
  • Talk with an International Student Advisor and other international students
  • If you struggle with academics, talk with your professors and advisors
  • Make friends with Americans and other international students
  • Stay busy with academics, hobbies, friends, and other interesting activities
  • Exercise or participate in sports
  • Try a new activity that you can't do in your home country
  • Don't forget the reasons you came to America
  • Be patient with yourself and your new culture

When culture shock hits you, just remember that it is a normal part of being an international student. You will pass through periods of ups and downs, but in the end it will all be worth it. Try to focus on all the positive and rewarding aspects of your experience! For more information on American culture and living in the United States, take a look at the following links:



International Tommie News - Cultural Newsletter

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