Dealing with Culture Shock as an International Student

Posted: October 31, 2023 | Author: Martina Istrefi | Read Time: 3 minutes

 International students walk together through the student center.

Perhaps one of the most difficult things international students have to face is cultural shock. It’s unavoidable, but not unmanageable. Here is everything you need about culture shock and how to deal with it as an international student, so you can have the best possible experience. 

What is culture shock?

Culture Shock is divided into four phases: honeymoon, crisis, adjustment and adaptation.

The first phase is the honeymoon phase where problems are non-existent and everything is an exciting adventure.

Next comes the crisis phase where everything changes for the worse! You start noticing how all the new social customs, people, money, food and language(s) are different. Time is viewed differently and you will start feeling the loss of your previous support system of family and friends. This crisis can cause you to start feeling intense negative emotions. You may feel angry, stressed, physically sick, etc. But don’t worry, the crisis phase doesn’t last forever! 

Adjustment is the third phase. Here you start to recognize everything you’re feeling is normal. You start to connect with other international students, and you give yourself time and space. You learn about the local culture and improve your language skills. Essentially, you begin to adjust. 

Then finally the last phase, adaptation. You start to enjoy the new culture, make new friends, and understand the new culture and how to operate in each culture.

During my exchange year culture shock was hard to overcome. In the first weeks, I felt really happy all the time, but soon after I started to feel down and anxious, and I never knew what to do. This was the hardest part to overcome, but with help, I was able to get through it. After the second phase, everything will improve because you start to accept the new culture and even enjoy it.

How to Face Culture Shock:

Find coping tools. 

Experiencing culture shock is normal, but there are a few things you can do to overcome it. For example, you can keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings. This will help you to express all your emotions without actually talking to someone.

Take care of your body. 

Another good tip you can follow to face culture shock is to get plenty of sleep and exercise. Sleeping and exercise are very important for our body and our mental health. If you take care of your body, you’ll be better able to handle the stress that comes your way. 

Use your college student resources.

SUU understands how difficult culture shock can be. There are lots of resources that the school offers students for free to help transition. Some of these resources are International Student Ambassadors (ISA), Aces, returning international students, International Student Admissions Counselors, American Language and Culture Center (ALCC) Instructors, CAPS Counselors and Care and Support Team (CAST) Members.

Get involved. 

Finally, don't stay inside the whole time. A good thing to do when experiencing culture shock is to go out and make new friends. Making friends in a foreign country can be difficult, so to help you out SUU hosts many events (including international events) that will help you connect with others.

Being involved in events and campus life is really important. On top of adjusting from culture shock, it helps you to gain experience & skills, form friendships, make important memories, network and practice language skills. 

SUU Involvement Organizations

Here is a list of just some of the amazing involvement opportunities that await you at SUU.

Navigating culture shock as an international student is undeniably challenging, but it is a journey that can be successfully managed. Embracing the journey of culture shock, facing its challenges head-on, and utilizing available resources will empower you to not only adapt but thrive in your new cultural environment.

Tags: CurStu Study Abroad International Student International Affairs

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