Dealing With Culture Shock

If you're dealing with culture shock, it's important to remember that you're not alone; everyone goes through culture shock, and it's okay to ask for help! After all, acknowledging your feelings is the first step towards getting a handle on them. There are many different ways to deal with culture shock, which luckily generally lasts just a few weeks.

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If you find yourself struggling with culture shock, you can:

Get Involved

What are some of the things you love to do? Are you a dancer? An incredible athlete? Neither of those things, but you've always wanted to learn? Whatever activity you're interested in, chances are there is a group on campus dedicated to just that. Not only will this get you out of the house, but it's also a great opportunity to meet people and make friends who share your interests.

Talk to People

If you're feeling overwhelmed, the best thing you can do is talk to other people. Have you introduced yourself to the person who sits next to you in class? What about messaging that person you met during orientation about getting together? Talking to people you don't know very well can be intimidating, especially if you are unsure of your language skills, but the payoff is worth it. Making friends isn't easy, but if you continue to see the same people over and over, you will form a bond that may eventually evolve into a lifelong friendship.

Find Other International Students

Chances are, other international students on your campus are going through many of the same things you are. The International Student Office on your campus likely offers activities like social/tea/coffee hours, movie nights, and other opportunities for you to meet and hang out with other international students. There may even be events or organizations specifically for your home country, which will help you to meet people who share your same culture and values.

Keep a Journal

A journal in which you can write down your thoughts, experiences, and feelings is extremely helpful when you are feeling overwhelmed. Many experts have found that journaling is a great way to deal with stress, anxiety, and depression.

Embrace the Culture

Sometimes things just annoy us because we don't understand the rationale behind them. Taking the time to understand the culture and traditions of your new home and finding out why something is done a certain way will help you gain a new understanding of US culture. Additionally, while you may feel more comfortable speaking your native language, hanging out with people from your home country, and participating in the international student organization, it's also important to branch out of your comfort zone. Try to include Americans in your activities or discussions, speak English when there are other students around, and try to avoid being seen as an "exclusive club." Americans are eager to learn from you, and didn't you come to the US to experience its culture?

Prepare for Homesickness

You are going to be homesick. That is perfectly normal, and there are many things you can do to help lessen the impact. Before you leave, figure out how you're going to communicate with people back home. Skype? A texting app? Snapchat? Staying connected with friends and family is vital in dealing with a big change like this. You might also want to bring some memorabilia from home with you: things like photos, posters, music, or artwork can help make your new home feel like your old home.

Reach Out for Support

Don't forget that there are a lot of people and resources there to support you. Talk to your roommates, friends, family, or maybe your religious/spiritual advisors about the challenges you are dealing with. Often just talking through your feelings with someone can help you cope with your emotions. It's important to find a person you can trust who can help you talk through your thoughts.