International students come in many different shapes and sizes. Some are experienced world travelers while some are leaving their home for the first time. As exciting as studying in a foreign country can be, many people underestimate the probability of suffering from culture shock. Each culture is unique in different ways, and these differences can take a toll, no matter how culturally diverse you may be.
How do you know if you are suffering from culture shock? Culture shock can take the form of many symptoms, including irritability, tiredness, loneliness, withdrawal, headaches, stomach aches, over-concern with health, and hopelessness. These may manifest a couple of weeks after your arrival and after the excitement of a new place has worn off. But not to worry! There are many fun ways to deal with culture shock so that you can enjoy your experience to the fullest. Here are my suggestions:
- Don’t forget about your hobbies. If you enjoy jogging or playing a musical instrument, for example, don’t forget about them when you go to a new place! Find a cool running path, join a gym, or buy a beat up guitar in a thrift shop. These can be great stress relievers!
- Make friends with locals as well as other international students. Close friends help you understand cultural nuances that might seem bizarre, and other international students can share in your new experiences and make you feel like you’re not alone. Fun ways to make friends are by joining groups and clubs at school, and attending other school events and hangouts. Don’t limit yourself to just one group, as isolation can cause even more adjustment hardships.
- Bring a taste of home to you! Think about what you miss the most about daily life back home and try to recreate it for your new friends! If you miss a certain type of food, find a specialty grocery store to find all of the ingredients, or ask a relative to mail you your favorite candy or treat!
- Talk to someone! Sometimes just letting it all out will make you feel a lot better. Culture shock is so common that most schools have counselors available to chat with you about your stresses. Seeking guidance and help to feel better is not a bad thing and should not be looked down upon. These counselors are a resource and will be your friend, even if you feel all alone.
- Finally, remember that laughter heals. Maintain a sense of humor about the mishaps and predicaments you find yourself in. Learning to brush it off and try again will get you closer to conquering your new domain.
Remember to allow yourself to learn and respect the customs of your new country. In doing so, your own values and customs will be challenged and re-examined. This is one of the most beneficial aspects of studying internationally. Your culture shock will subside and you’ll return home with a new outlook of your world.
Check out our Insurance Explained section for more information on staying healthy while you study.