Every year, an increasing number of students leave their home countries behind in the pursuit of better education. According to the UNESCO report published in 2017, over 5.3 million students got enrolled in graduate and post-graduate programs in other countries.
While such a step is significant for one’s career and knowledge bank, it doesn’t mean that it is easy. More often than not, international students find themselves in the midst of a foreign culture, language, and atmosphere. The cultural shock, if not dealt with properly, can affect academic performance, lead to homesickness and insomnia.
If you are an international student, you would want to make the most out of the exciting experience of studying in a foreign university. To ensure that the cultural shock doesn’t disorient you, here are some steps you can take.
1. Begin by Accepting that Your Feelings Are Valid
Invalidating your feelings and emotions and thinking that you are overreacting can end up backfiring. The best way to deal with culture shock is accepting that the concept is normal and occurs to a lot of people. Recognizing the presence of the issue is the first step towards recovery!
Remember, it is not about you. There is nothing wrong with you. You are not incapable of fitting into the environment. Instead, you just need to give yourself time to adjust. You will be surprised that even the natives of the country can experience cultural shock.
For instance, there are a lot of excellent universities that offer executive MBA in Florida. People from various states of the US, along with international students, opt for such programs. US citizens from places like California or LA experience a culture shock in Florida too! Any place that is unfamiliar and has its own way of living can produce this effect. So, you are not alone.
2. Keep in Touch With Your Loved Ones
A great way to combat homesickness that comes as a symptom of culture shock is to stay in close contact with your family and friends from back home.
And don’t just talk to them about the weather. Instead, let them know about your inner turmoil and feelings. This will help you in letting it all out. Not to mention that your loved ones can provide you with a better escape route since they know your personality in and out.
One of the greatest things about living in this era is that we can easily connect with our loved ones back home. Think about the days when the sole way of communicating cross-country were letters and expensive phone calls!
With the rise of the internet, you can now video chat with your family. Make use of the various apps around you. The more you feel familiarity around you, the easier it would become to overcome the culture shock.
3. Never Miss Out on Orientation Day and Programs
The culture shock international students experience stems from the unfamiliarity that is around them. If one is able to combat this, it is automatically easier to feel better.
This is why it is highly advised that you attend the orientation sessions and programs organized by your university. Every university dedicated a day or week in introducing the new batch to the campus life.
These sessions tend to include ice-breaking programs, game nights, campus tours, informative talks about the different programs at the university etc. Various top universities further take it up a notch and tailor a separate program for international students. These programs aid in acclimatizing the students to the culture of the country as well as building a support network.
When you are feeling down and frustrated, you might think about missing such programs. But don’t do so. Fight the feeling. Put on a brave face and attend it all. You are bound to feel better by the end of it.
4. Try to Socialize
Regardless of whether you choose a university in your home country or a foreign one, you need a support system to make it through the four years. And this support system must be from the university. After all, no one else can understand and help you with your everyday struggle as good as someone who is going through the same thing!
This is why it is essential to make friends. By socializing and making friends, you can deal with the culture shock as well. How so? Well, suddenly, you will feel that the country doesn’t feel as complicated and new to you anymore. This is because you now have someone to turn to at times of need!
Socializing in a new country and college can be hard. An excellent way to break the ice is by joining the different clubs and societies. Some places even offer specific clubs for international students.
By becoming an active member of any society, you are passionate about will allow you to find like-minded people. Try to befriend international students specifically. They will be able to relate to your culture shock struggle as well as offer solutions that worked best for them.
5. Understand that Isolating Yourself is Not the Answer
One of the first things you would want to do when you start feeling the cultural shock is shutting yourself in your hostel room. Getting out of bed and making an effort to explore the city and your university may seem like the ultimate struggle.
But, isolating yourself from the world will only make it worse. The more time that goes by, the harder it will be for you to gel into the environment.
You are not alone. There will be various other students in your university going through the exact same struggle as yours. Reach out to them. Learn the native languages if you have to. Making an effort to overcome the culture shock is actually all it takes to overcome it eventually!
You Can Manage It!
With these five tips and a positive outlook on the situation, one can undoubtedly manage and overcome culture shock.
This feeling is fleeting. It will pass.