Often the drastic change in environment poses a big challenge for international students, although most do not realize it until they set foot on campus. From trying to come to terms with the fact that you are no longer around your close friends and relatives, to welcoming change in every aspect of your life (the food you eat, the way you communicate and sometimes, the clothes you wear), the changes that come with moving into a new country can be very overwhelming. In such a circumstance, the art of adjusting to change is a constant process that one must learn to embrace. On the negative, this period of change can be very distressing, and can drive any student into a period of withdrawal from normal life experiences especially the much needed social experience. Afterwards, negative feelings towards the new environment and a general perception of the people as bad and evil develops (trust me everyone who goes through this can tell you how evil they thought the people were, lol!). Ultimately, life in a foreign country may turn out to be a struggle. This is most definitely not the joy of a busy student. Despite all these negative possibilities, the good news is that this situation often only lasts for a period of 6-12 months. Trust me, as long as it seems, it is positive considering how fast time goes by on campus. On a more positive note, thank God its only temporary :)
The description above is a general summation of what one experiences when going through culture shock. Wikipedia gives a clearer definition of culture shock as the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, or to a move between social environments. This definition succinctly sums up everything, except think about it in a college setting in this context. Culture shock occurs in four different stages. These are the honeymoon stage, the negotiation stage (which is the most frustrating of all stages), the adjustment stage and the mastery stage. Another form of culture shock that is somewhat expected for international students is reverse culture shock, which is basically culture shock you experience once you return to your home country and realize that you have to adjust to the culture there all over again. However, this can be prevented by ensuring that you keep in touch with people in your home country despite the distance that separates you. If possible, visit your home country as often as possible to ensure that you remain familiar with it. Follow up on what happens in your country through online sources. This can be very helpful in letting you know what you should expect when you get back home.
As an international student, I find it very important to discuss culture shock. This is because I myself have gone through it. It was not a very pleasant experience; that I can tell you. In fact, in my first semester, I was literally a cranky student. Back then, I just couldn’t understand why I felt that way, until I came across useful information that ultimately helped me through my second semester. I, then, began to see the whole process as a positive experience through which I learnt so much and made new friends, who enabled me to move on with life in a foreign country. In my next article, I will discuss the various stages of culture shock and how to deal with them as they come, so stay tuned! In the meantime, I wish everyone a successful semester, especially now that finals are almost here. Remember to take care of yourselves through it all! :)
Glad to know I am not the only one experiencing culture shock . I know most of us experienced culture shock the moment we entered college. I also experienced that. That is why I can relate very well to your blog post. The summation of things that we experienced in a culture shock, I experienced them all! But aside from those you have listed, I have experienced another, an even harder to handle. I came from an exclusive boys high school. I am used to the atmosphere of an all boys classroom, there are fist fights all around, shouting, yelling etc and anything you can add to an all boys environment. When I entered a co-ed college, I got uneasy feeling of women being around. It's not that I am not comfortable around girls, but the fact that I got used to an all boys classroom for 10 years, I find it weird
By the way I believe the culture shock you are going through as an international student is even harder to deal with, being an international student is such a great position to be, disregarding this culture shock. I also dreamed of being an international student but my fear of culture shock hindered me from doing so. I salute you!
I am glad that you can relate to my article and I hope you will find the continuing series of this topic helpful. I aim to explore this topic as best as I can because I am convinced that culture shock will always be here and is not going away anytime soon. I hope that you did finally find ways of dealing with culture shock and that you finally settled into college well.
The thing with culture shock is that people either know about it or they don't. And the people who know about it are very fearful about confronting it and overcoming it because somehow, they expect the worst. The people who don't know anything about it are not aware of what they should really expect in a foreign country and that too is not good because they end up not knowing how to deal with culture shock as it comes upon them. I would like to say that culture shock is not completely insurmountable. It is only when you have the right mindset towards the culture at hand that you can get through the period of culture shock. Culture shock is a real experience, but it can be a positive learning experience if people were not so ignorant about it, or so scared of going through it.
Are there ways with which you are facing the change in environment from an all boys school to a coed school? If its okay with you you can share them with the other readers. Otherwise, I wish you all the best, and I hope things go well in your new environment. Stay tuned for the next series! :)
Hmmmm..... brings back memories when I landed in Germany from India. Everything was so different and new. People with different life style and culture, the different food, a language that I don't speak, the very first snow that I saw in my life..... was overwhelming at the beginning! I managed to pull through since at that time I was young and was with a curious, open mind and to fit in those settings and finish my PhD seemed adventurous to me (I am still an open-minded person!).
Also, it helped that the people in my department was also curious to learn about me and my culture and they tried their best to integrate me. So they always invited me to their parties at their home, to the Friday gathering at the department. And all the international students tried to hang out together and take part in activities which also helped. From my side, I was open to trying new things and always accepted the invitations and did my best to learn their culture, way of life etc. Once I got established, whenever there was a new international student, I always go to them, introduce myself and get them involved in the social life so that they can begin their new life in a new place. At times when it was real difficult I reminded myself why I chose to leave my country in the first place and come to Germany – to make myself and my future better!
I was in touch with my family back home once in week over the phone but being able to listen to my music and finding a shop selling my spices and food items was a great relief. Along with that, with time, I also found out about other Indian students in the community and we always managed to celebrate all our festivals and cook frequently together. Being able to eat ones own food and talk ones own language from time to time was a real blessing in a foreign country.
When I came to US it was completely a different story. I was not a student anymore and at the place where I ended up, people did not go out of their way to make life easier for new comers. Also everyone was busy with their research work and personal life (NYC – where time is money so no one had any to spare for others!). So I talked with my boss, searched the net and found out about the activity groups and joined one that is of my interest. I met lots of interesting people and we did lots of activities like visiting museums, live music concerts and so on! So the point is:
always remember why you came here and keep the ultimate goal in mind and work towards it.
remember this is an golden opportunity to experience a new culture, new way of life and enjoy it. Not many people get such an opportunity in life to experience a new country.
Keep an eye and ear out for extra-curricular activities and meet people who might share the same interests and passion as you are.
This internet era – people can get any information they want and can also easily stay connected.
Trying to find a date and going on a date in NYC is another big cultural shock, but I won't talk about it!
Culture shock comes in all shapes and sizes, that’s for sure. I know many students who grew up in rural parts on the United States who then went to college in a big city (also in the U.S.) and experienced exactly what you’ve described here. In a way, it is almost more strange to experience culture shock in a place you don’t expect it. At least, that’s my own opinion.
I remember visiting France as an 18 year old and I wasn’t expecting the culture to be that much difference. After all, their culture was “western” too. But it was much different than I was expecting! What do you mean a shake is a dessert item at McDonalds?
I think one of the best ways to deal with culture shock is to be well grounded in your own cultural values and beliefs. There’s always going to be some change because no place is exactly the same. So it’s important to know what you are comfortable changing and what is never going to change. This will also allow you to choose a place that is going to accept you for who you are.
Overall, culture shock can be really hard to get over. Just stay true to yourself.
I think that this culture shock isn't necessarily only limited to international students coming into a new country. I think that people who are just moving into a place in their life where they don't live with their parents could also experience this kind of stress. I guess what I mean by that is that I have seen a number of new, incoming college freshman get very sick and depressed because of their experiences in college. They don't know how to feed themselves properly or take care of themselves, and their parents may not have ever taught them so they are left to live through their first experiences of college alone. I think that's pretty similar to your experience given the fact that you, too, are expected to live through it alone without any help or encouragement from parents, friends, or the people around you. After having read the post that came after this, I was intrigued by getting the perspective of US colleges from an international student. Obviously it is a difficult situation to live in, much like it would be with a US student moving to another country. Culture shock is something that is not only limited to international students, but just individuals moving from one place to another.
I am glad someone is writing about this. When I attended Cleveland State University I noticed how lost, confused, and scared the foreign students looked as they roamed from class to class. At the time I was looking for ways to make new campus friends so I signed up to become a conversation partner. I was assigned to a guy from Saudi Arabia and let me tell you it was the best experience I ever had! He was not brand new to the country, he had been in the USA for a couple of years, but he was new on campus. We started with basic conversation then he introduced me to his friends that were new to the country. After awhile when my friend and I were more comfortable we started asking each other more difficult questions about the others ones country and politics and beliefs. I took him to a few places he never experienced before, and he introduced me to his culture (as much as he could have) through food and belly dance shows. Thanks to him I became involved in belly dancing myself! His friends would tell me how they were uncomfortable on campus and rarely went places not in groups. It was an enlightening experience. My friend and I became very close and he recently went back home for good.