Culture shock

Supporting students and making their dreams come true

Culture shock is common among international students arriving in a new country of study. By definition, culture shock is the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes. It is more than just being unfamiliar with altered social norms and acclimatising to different foods. It can be frustrating and disorientating, with simple acts such as buying a bus ticket proving a challenge. Listed below are The Guardian Abroad’s best pieces of advice on how to acclimatise to your new environment:

  • First and foremost, understand that suffering from culture shock is a normal experience. No matter how well-travelled you are or the culture from which you are arriving from, you are likely to face challenges in adapting to your new environment, particularly over such an extended period as studying for an undergraduate degree.
  • How do you know you are suffering? Symptoms for cultural shock can vary wildly from person to person. Typical symptoms include feelings of sadness and melancholy, aches and pains, allergies, sudden changes in mood, depression and loneliness, a loss of identity and a longing for home. If you feel such symptoms, look for help. Take time to see what services your place of study offers – whether it be an orientation programme or specialised counselling.
  • Perhaps most importantly, stay in touch with home. Whether it be a daily catch up with your parents or a bi-weekly chat with your friends, regular contact with family and friends from home is crucial to staying grounded and not feeling completely isolated from your nearest and dearest.
  • Listening and speaking in a secondary language on a daily basis can be fatiguing. It is important to remember than even the most fluent of speakers struggle to keep up in lectures and on reading study material. Prior to arriving, ensure you are more than competent in the language you shall be undertaking during the length of your studies.
  • You will not be alone in studying abroad at your place of study. Many students take solace and comfort in befriending people from their own ethnic group. However, take time to maintain contact with local people – studying abroad is about meeting new people and embracing new cultures. Hiding in your room is the last thing you should do.
  • Have confidence in yourself. Be willing to adapt to your new culture, but don’t change completely just to fit in. You will adjust naturally – culture shock does not last. Crucially, have a sense of humour. Laugh at some of the silly predicaments in which you find yourself.
  • Overcoming culture shock necessitates a degree of acceptance. Acceptance that you will never truly understand your new culture and environment, and an acceptance that it isn’t home. This needn’t mean you are incapable of thriving in your new environment, just that it is different. Embrace that difference.

Suffering from culture shock is perfectly normal for international students. Indeed, it is common. Here at The Guardian Abroad UK Ltd., our team constitutes former international students who have lived the feelings and experiences you are undertaking. Under our guardianship, we offer specialist service and advice to prevent and alleviate feelings of loneliness, home sickness and culture shock. We are here to support pre and post-arrival, providing an all-round support service.

Culture shock
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