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Culture Shock

Planning for a successful adjustment into the U.S. culture will help you overcome some of the initial challenges of changing your environment.

"...disorientation and discomfort associated with initial arrival into a new culture"

“Culture Shock” is the name given to the feeling of disorientation and discomfort associated with initial arrival into a new culture. “Cultural Adjustment” is the process of learning about and growing comfortable in the host culture.

The process of adjusting to a new culture can take many months, during which time you may experience periods of extreme stress. The stress results from uncertainty about finding your way in a strange place, homesickness and loneliness for family and home, competition with U.S. students, difficulties with language, differences in cultural values, the challenge of meeting people and making friends, differences in daily routine, and the many other factors that cause culture shock.

The stress of cultural adjustment can lead to unexpected changes. For example, you may experience changes in moods or attitudes, such as awkwardness, shyness, embarrassment, frustration, anger, and disappointment. Many students also report health-related changes, including depression, anxiety, and loneliness, and sometimes changes in sleeping and eating patterns.

Some students become ill when they are under stress, because stress can lower resistance to infection and disease. Others experience physical symptoms, such as stomach problems, constipation, headaches, fatigue, heart palpitations, and altered menstrual periods. Although they may seem unrelated, these are often the result of unrelieved stress.

Stress can be managed! The first and best way to cope with unavoidable stress is to keep your body in good physical health by eating well, exercising and getting enough rest. Be sure to make time for activities which you really enjoy, whether alone or with the new friends you have made in the United States.

Keep your expectations realistic: trying to do too much will cause you to become frustrated and even more stressed. Set priorities, so you work on the most important tasks and leave the minor ones for later. Take one thing at a time, don’t try to be perfect, and focus on your strengths. All of these will help you maintain more control over your life and reduce your stress.

Practice your English daily. Difficulty in communicating inevitably leads to frustration and causes stress. As you improve your English, you will be able to communicate effectively with Americans, express your ideas and preferences, and make new friends.

If you believe you are suffering from culture shock let others at Concord University know what you are feeling. Make an appointment at the International Center or visit with some other students. Culture shock is a natural part of living and studying in a different culture.

Created on Dec 1, 2011. Report incorrect information.