You have probably heard about it a hundred times, and some of us may not have called it culture shock, yet most of us experience the differences and challenges when moving out of familiar home surroundings into the “Wild Wild West”.
We at peerTransfer are here to help you prepare for a time at college when the initial excitement of meeting new friends, trying new foods, experiencing new academic settings and other fun stuff starts to fade a little.
Even though you may think that you have traveled the world and are immune to being homesick or feeling blue, it’s a good exercise to learn the phases of cultural adjustment, recognizing normal symptoms of culture shock and what some of the coping strategies are.
What is culture shock
Culture shock is a logical reaction to differences we come across when going to a foreign culture.
There are various phases that you may experience:
- You’re fascinated with all the new things you are experiencing
- You’re feeling a little uncomfortable because you feel you don’t belong or fit in
- You’re rejecting the foreign culture and its people, finding them strange
- You’re learning to interpret foreign behavior
- You’re accepting the differences and enjoying the foreign culture
Preparing for culture shock
It is always a good idea to prepare yourself for a little culture shock, here are a few ways:
- Read as much as possible about where you’re going, including the State, or the area (the South is very different from the North). You can read some travel books, local newspapers online, and stay up to date on political happenings
- Reach out and talk to fellow international students who have been to the place you’re going. You could do so by reaching out to your school’s international student office and ask for referrals for instance
- Talk to your local Study Abroad Office and get some information and advice from them
Dealing with culture shock
Handling culture shock can be done with a few easy steps:
- Keep an open mind and a positive attitude. Try withholding judgment as it will allow you to be an objective observer and facilitate the cross-cultural understanding.
- Give yourself time to adapt to the cultural differences.
- Make an effort and study the language daily to enhance your communication skills, as this will help you integrate with American students better.
- Make friends with American students who can help you explain different customs and show you how things are done in America.
- Make yourself like something about the American culture every day. Celebrate a meal (that you wouldn’t otherwise eat in your home country), an activity, or anything that you’re probably going to miss once you’re back in your home country.
- Most importantly: Keep your sense of humor!
Keep in mind that studying abroad is an incredible experience that will expand your horizons and add the wealth of another culture to your experience and knowledge – and it’s up to you to make the most of it.
If you have any additional tips and tricks for fellow international students, please let us know in the comments below!