The day you land up in your new study abroad destination, you’re all busy in understanding and enjoying the newness around you. You’re smiling at the vendors, charmed by the sudden openness of the people around you. Or perhaps you’re noticing a discreet isolation of genders, ages, or a confusion prevails about why your host mother shies away from some of your questions, yes this is the Culture Shock.
What is Culture Shock?
When you study abroad, your daily routine, the attitude of people and culture are no longer familiar. This procedure of understanding, recognizing and adapting to these changes is called culture shock. In a new country, we become more aware of these cultural offerings because they are different from our usual rules. There are four stages of culture shock:
Initial Ecstasy–For initial few days, you’ll likely enjoy all the wonderful things your new chosen home has to offer at this stage, you’ll recognize cultural similarities and be enchanted by the differences.
The Negotiation Stage–Very soon, the euphoria stage will go away. You will go crazy at all apparent “disorganization” of stuff around you. You’ll become overwhelmed with all the things you may have to adjust with, you either feel irritated or forced to make things go “your way”.
Adjustment Stage–Few days or maybe a few weeks (for few students), comes the stage where you start getting adjusted to the surroundings and finally are able to relax. You’ve achieved a balance of emotions. And, now instead of feeling annoyed and frustrated, you’re learning to understand the differences. You’ll soon be more positive about everything around you and interested in learning more about your host country, and make more effort to fit in.
The Mastery Stage–Finally, you reach a high level of comfort in your new surroundings and this is the final stage of culture shock. The order, in which all events and things take place, makes quite a sense, you can talk to strangers with much ease, and you go smoothly with cultural nuances. Your routine is more stable and regular. For sure, you still miss your family, loved ones and old friends, but your new life is full of excitement, new friends, and all-new activities, that makes life much more valuable and justifies all your sacrifices.
Quick tips to deal with Culture Shock
Read as much as you can about your host country through novels, guidebooks and travel forums.
Ask study abroad mentors for advice and what’s best for you as per your profile.
Make sure that you set your learning goals for your overseas education.
At your initial or Euphoria stage, pen down what you love when you first arrive, and look back later, when you’re feeling irritated, go through this list to remind yourself of all the good things about your new home, instead of the things that annoy you.
Look for a healthy distraction. Spend some time on your favorite TV show, cook a meal from home, or have a dance party in your house.
Talk to other students who are studying abroad with you, about how you feel. Ask them about the strategies they’ve used to cope with cultural differences.
Push yourself to make local friends, you’ll learn from them as they are experts in their own culture and will be able to answer all the crazy questions you have.
Involve with the local community as most of your feelings of culture shock may be because you feel like too much of an outsider. Say, if you went to church at home, go to church there as well.
Even if your program is being in English, make an effort to learn the local language. It helps you to understand more about the culture and helps make friends feel more included.
Many students choose to study abroad with the mind-set that it’s about weekend getaways and late-night parties, but it’s much more and bigger than that. It’s a challenge, beginning of a new culture, and an emotional roller coaster sometimes. However, once you’ve accomplished your goals and come back home, you’ll forget about all the things that irritated you and only treasure the memories you made.