Culture shock is more than a feeling of homesickness or jetlag. It can lead to quite severe symptoms, such as feelings of nausea, frustration, extreme tiredness and confusion.
It’s also a very typical experience for international students, so make sure you have all the advice you need with our Top 5 tips on Culture Shock.
Settling into a new country, learning how to live in a new town, speak the language, make friends, shop and cook… this is not simple. So it’s no surprise really that you may start to feel anxious, depressed, or stressed.
But these feelings will pass. As you become more confident in your language ability, as you make those friends, and as you get to know your way around, you will start to enjoy all the differences of this new culture. And that, after all, is one reason why you wanted to travel in the first place.
You may be surprised by how different the culture really is. People may wear more casual clothes, behave differently with the opposite sex, be very strict about punctuality, or drink and smoke in public.
This doesn’t mean that you also have to do all these things, but you do have to accept that they are part of this culture. Instead of being overly critical, ask questions to work out what is considered ‘normal’.
This may be the first time you’ve lived away from home. So it helps to learn some important skills before you leave. Learn how to cook a few of your favourite meals, make sure you can wash your own clothes and do regular chores such as cleaning.
You will probably be living with people you don’t know, such as a family homestay or with other students. Think about how you can be considerate of their needs, and how you can communicate with them if they don’t speak your language.
When your going though culture shock, it helps to recognise which phase you are in. Be patient!
Honeymoon phase: Everything is exciting when you first arrive, especially the differences
Crisis phase: Suddenly, these differences are hard to deal with. You don’t like the food, you can’t understand the accent, or you may get lost trying to find the supermarket or bus stop. You didn’t think it would be like this, and you find it difficult to focus on your studies.
Adjustment phase: As you become more confident speaking the language and with your daily routine, things get a little easier. You make new friends, join in community activities, and learn how to deal with any problems.
Bi-cultural phase: now, you feel comfortable living in two cultures at the same time. You feel like you belong.
How you cope with culture shock is entirely up to you. And there are things you can do to make it easier.
Remember, overcoming culture shock is vital if you want to get the most from your international studies. And it’s also the best way to boost your confidence and get the skills you need to work and travel around the world.
If you’d like any further information on studying abroad, check out our StudyLink advice page. Good luck!
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