Study Abroad: How to Deal with Culture Shock

Study Abroad: How to Deal with Culture Shock

When someone studies abroad, they often happen to be encountered with the culture shock in a foreign country. If you deny it, you are not being completely honest with yourself. Sooner or later, for a short or a long period of time, this state of anxiety will be there to face. Is it possible to overcome stress and frustration by finding yourself immersed in a culture very different from your own? Yes, it is, but it is up to you to decide.

Why Does it Happen

From where does this shock come? Certainly the difficulty of adapting to the new culture is caused by an initial inability of understanding, interpretation of new values, symbols and expressions present in the new social context, but above all by the loss of reference points. By reference points are meant mostly the absence of familiar uses and faces, which can lead to a conflict of identity, disorientation, misunderstanding and interpersonal conflict. There are commonly four phases to be met on the way to learn how to deal with culture shock, while studying abroad.

Absolutely Fascinating

What comes first is a pleasant surprise. You will be fascinated and intrigued by the new foreign culture, new language, new places, new food, new people and friendships. Simply, the diversity from your own culture will suddenly take you over and broaden your mind. It is like when a little child suddenly has the freedom to explore the world on its own and do anything he wants, independently of his parents or any other pressure he might has had before. There will be a lot of different and new things to try, enthusiasm will be on its maximum. Every city and every country has something particular to offer, and this will at first leave a great impact on your mood and your curiosity to see and learn about it as much as possible.

A Strong Barrier

But, then disapproval, boredom and discouragement come into your way. Everything what was initially so fascinating, becomes frustrating. It so happens, because subconsciously or consciously you start missing your own culture, language, familiar faces, food, old habits and place of living. Language is difficult and the initial enthusiasm to learn it slowly fades away. People seem not to be so interested to share company with you, nor do you seem to like their way of thinking and new culture’s mentality. Food is not as tasteful as you have expected, you miss food from your country and so good food is nowhere to be found. Something bothers you, but you cannot decide what bothers you more. Simply, nearly everything was better in your own country, because there you always had your way of doing. More and more, a little voice in your head will say ‘in my country we don’t do it like that’, but simply in another way. And being in another culture is not an excuse to forget who you are.

Recovery and Acceptance

Now comes good news. After the first two phases, comes the third phase and it is some sort of initial recovery. It starts then, when students start to accept some different aspects of the foreign culture, considering them in the end as something better compared to the culture of origin. Language plays a crucial factor here. After a while, the new language becomes more understandable and easier to pick up along. This helps a lot in communication with other people and one’s self-esteem starts to grow. By learning the language, other things are discovered as well and after overcoming the initial difficulty and resolving the problems, it seems much easier. In addition to that, after being a few months in another country, it becomes more difficult to abandon it at the end of studying. Somehow, the new country grows up to the heart, and the possibility of never living there again seems to bring unexpectedly sad feelings.

One of Them or Maybe Not

The last phase is the one when the culture shock has been overcome. But it only happens if a student decides to stay in a foreign country or stays there for a really long time. Somehow with time, students get used to the new culture in nearly all aspects. Yet, it is a phase, which not everyone manages to reach. Mostly, there is a mixture between the culture of origin and the foreign culture. There comes the time when one is able to distinguish pros and cons between both cultures and takes only pros together and builds a puzzle of his own personal new culture.

Tips How to Make it Less Difficult

Surely, patience is a key word here. To succeed in anything, one’s has to learn to dominate himself and be patient, and how to be patient is difficult. It is often said that time heals everything, and so it is. To be able to endure it meanwhile, the most important thing is to be focused on something and keep little by little, at your own rhythm, progress towards better. Be it learning a new language step by step, a few words a day, or a lesson a day, talking with people, strangers on the street, on bus, at university in that language or in English, be it practicing some new sport, or going often walking, cycling, jogging, maybe swimming and skiing if possible, you will decisively feel better because at your own you will manage to overcome linguistic barriers and timidity to talk. Plus, your body will be fit and give you more self-confidence. But remember, to achieve these results, it has to be regular and consistent, literally every day or nearly every day. Moreover, another interesting thing to do is to visit all possible places near the city you are living in and exploit everything you could not do in your country.

The World is All Yours

To sum up, once you have learned the language basic or advance, it does not matter, local people are going to appreciate that and will be more willing to talk with you and know you better. This is because they see that you are actually engaging yourself and undertaking to understand their culture, which leads to the fact that you want to be a part of them, by liking their food, music, customs, language... In that way it is possible to overcome the culture shock and thanks to this also gain a great self-confidence. It may seem difficult, but it is not. The world is all yours once you manage to deal with it in the country you currently are in. Good luck with your further progress!

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