6 Tips to manage culture shock as an International student

Do you know that 8 out of 10 students experience culture shock when they move to a new country to study abroad? If you are planning to move abroad to pursue higher education but are overwhelmed with the upcoming drastic culture change, we’re here to help.

If you need expert guidance and support to prepare for you study abroad journey and ease the culture shock, our best study abroad experts at Gradstar Global Education will be beyond happy to help. Book an appointment today!

What is culture shock?

Culture shock is the sinking or disoriented feeling that takes over when we are put in an entirely new environment with an unfamiliar culture.

As an international student, when you move countries to pursue higher education, the change of environment, language, symbols, and customs can hit you as an unwelcome surprise, commonly known as culture shock.

8 Common symptoms of culture shock

  • Melancholy or decreased productivity
  • Pain or allergies
  • Isolation
  • Excessive or no sleep
  • Frequent mood swings–anger or irritability
  • Loss of identity or confidence
  • Homesickness
  • Strong feeling of not being appreciated or lost

We understand that is a lot to deal with; that’s exactly why Gradstar’s pre-departure primer services are there to prepare and guide you fully.

Causes of culture shock

For a new international student like you, apart from a drastic shift in values and culture, this shock can be due to the significant changes in your living experience. We’ve illustrated some usual causes of culture shock.

1. Weather

Shifting to a new country means a sudden change in weather conditions, and you must be prepared for it. The degree of impact of weather change on you depends on your adaptability and the difference between your home country and your new country’s climate.

For example, an Indian student used to warm weather will take time to blend into Canada’s extremely cold winters or the UK’s grey days and rain.

2. Language

Even with a strong grasp of the English language, moving to an English speaking country can have some challenges when conversing with the locals or fellow students. You’ll take time to blend in because they might have different accents or local slang. For instance, when driving, “Chuk a U-ey,” Australian slang, means perform a U-turn.

3. Food

You will be accustomed to a specific cuisine based on your likes and availability in your home country. But unfamiliar cuisines and food at restaurants might make you feel homesick when you can’t find the food that you like. You can tackle this by cooking at home or discovering restaurants serving similar food to what you like.

4. Different way of life

The basic way of living changes with countries. So, as an international student, it’s normal to feel out of place or overwhelmed sometimes. What’s more, different countries have unique social norms/rules. For example, Australians might call you “mate” in conversation and at the first meeting, this may feel overly familiar, disrespectful and informal to you but the relaxed Australian culture is less formal.

5. Education system

Every country has a unique way of academic scoring, new structure, projects, and teaching methodology, which you might have never heard of in your home country. So, it’s wise to gather information about your university’s academic pattern to avoid getting overwhelmed with the newness. Hot tip: never miss the first week of class where all of the expectations for the course will be shared in detail and there will be an opportunity to ask questions if you don’t understand anything.

Stages of culture shock

Culture shock may not come to you all at once and you may not even be aware that it is happening to you; here are the stages of culture shock that you must be aware of as an international student.

HoneymoonEverything during this stage is new and exciting as studying abroad is a big change.

You tend to focus on the positives, are happy with the cultural similarities, and are low-key surprised or excited by the differences.
DisintegrationThe newness wears off during this stage, and all the big or small cultural differences surface – language, people, food, customs. You feel lost, homesick, and isolated.

You soon start to solve things and adapt to the new culture but are stressed about not seeing any noticeable change in how you feel, leading to a feeling of not fitting in.
AdjustmentYou begin to learn and adapt to the new culture and appreciate new experiences.

Now, you fix your new routine, experience emotional stability, gain more confidence, learn more about the new culture, and feel like you are making progress.
IntegrationThis is the level all international students seek wherein you have a mix of close local and international friends, understand how to approach cultural challenges, and feel comfortable in your life abroad.

6 tips to help you overcome culture shock

You can prepare well to cope with culture shock as an international student; here are our top 6 tips –

1. Prepare in advance and seek expert guidance

To ensure minimum effects of culture shock on yourself, research, read books, or watch shows to understand the cultural difference between your study and home country so you know what to expect.

But we also recommend going beyond the internet to find support. The wise choice is to seek expert guidance. Our Dream Makers and top study abroad experts at Gradstar know the common problems international students face and can fully prepare you for this life-changing journey.

2. Embrace your reality

Almost every international student coming from an entirely different culture takes time to blend into the host country’s environment. So, understand that it’s normal and you’re not weird to feel out of place. This will help you accept the change more easily.

3. Stay connected with family and friends

The best way to not feel the shock is to create a familiar environment for yourself in your study country and seek emotional support/comfort whenever needed. You can talk to your loved ones over calls or have familiar items like family photos around you.

4. Participate in cultural or orientation programs

To better gel into your study country, attend cultural, social, and orientation programs in and around your university. This makes you more aware of the new culture’s intricacies and allows you to network and make new friends.

5. Socialize with international and local students

You must socialize with other international/local students by participating in activities and joining student societies. Doing so will let you explore exciting activities, learn about the new community, understand other students’ challenges, and explore the city/restaurant/new places.

6. Keep yourself engaged in work or hobbies

You can best deal with culture shock by giving yourself less time to overthink. Invest more time finding a new job to earn a side income and gain work experience. We also recommend taking up a new hobby at your university based on your interest.

We also recommend exploring the best part-time jobs to earn while you study.

Wrapping Up

However unsettling culture shock may seem, you can leave behind or minimize the disorientation by researching, keeping in touch with family, being patient, and building strong connections at the university or in your neighbourhood. Don’t forget to follow our tips to cope better in the new environment.

Also, leverage expert guidance for well-rounded support. Our finest study abroad experts at Gradstar are here to ease your study abroad transition with our holistic co design process and pre-departure support. We prepare you for the change and help you network with peers before leaving.

Wait no further and book a private session today!
Recommended Reads:

    1. How to adjust to life in a new country when you study abroad?
    2. Practice positivity with these handy tips.

Date Published: Sep-27-2023

Our Dream Makers are expert listeners, educators, career consultants and student supporters. They co-design your study abroad experience with you to empower you to reach for the stars. Because dreams deserve a helping hand.

About the author

This blog was written by Gradstar Global Education.