Overcoming Culture Shock: Top Tips for Students Studying Abroad

International Student Leaders Overcome Culture Shock

Tips for Overcoming Culture Shock

1.  Learn All You Can Before Your Trip
If your school is in another country, research online about the culture of that country.  What are their rules of etiquette?  What are some phrases or questions used frequently in conversation? For example, in America asking “how are you” is commonly used as another way of simply saying “hello.”  What are their values or social norms?  Ex. Being on time is important in America, if you are late it is seen as rude. Also, ask others who have been to that country for tips or advice.  What were they surprised by?  What helped them to adjust to the culture?  What were some similarities between the cultures?
Even schools have their own culture.  Therefore, prepare yourself by finding out information about your school before the year begins. Where is your school located? What rules does the school have concerning dress code, classroom etiquette, dorm life?  Who are some of the school’s teachers, deans (houseparents), and administration?  What classes will you be taking?   


Shaffer Dorm student leaders with mentors at Oregon coast
2.  Keep An Open Mind
As you enter into your new culture, try not to view the differences from your culture as negative or wrong.  Each culture has reasons for the way they think and live.  Write down these differences.  Try to step out of your own culture and find out the reasons for these differences from your new culture’s point of view. Analyze why you may have negative feelings about these variations and see if it something you can change. If it can’t be changed, think of ways how you will be able to live with these differences.
 3.  Establish A Routine
Culture shock occurs because of all the changes experienced at one time.  This can cause you to feel disoriented, anxious, and overwhelmed.  Establishing a routine will help you find some stability in your host culture.  
4.  Get Involved
Although you may feel uncomfortable in your new culture, it is important for you to get out and make friends.  Getting involved with a hobby, club, or sport will help you to make connections with students who have the same interests as you. Taking part in social activities will also help you to make friends and adjust to your new culture. 
5.  Make The Right Friends
As you start making friends, be mindful of what type of friends you are associating with.  It may be easier to spend most of your time with other students who are from your country or culture.  However, if they are critical of your new culture or if being with them keeps you from learning and speaking the language of your new culture/country perhaps you should widen your circle of friends.  Both of these things will hinder you from adjusting to your host culture and take away from your boarding school experience.  


6.  Learn The Language
It may be a big step out of your comfort zone but learning and speaking the language of your new culture/country is very important.  Many people will be impressed and appreciative that you are making the effort to learn their language so don’t worry too much if you stumble on your words!  Learning the language of the new country you are in is vital to understanding the people and the culture. The more confidence you gain in speaking the language, the more comfortable you will be in the culture. 
7.  Keep in communication with those at home.
With technology today, no matter how many miles away you may be from your family and friends, they can be just a moment away through a phone or Skype call. Being in communication with those from home can worsen homesickness but with the right mindset it can be a strength.  
It is helpful to share with others how you are feeling.  It is good to keep them current on the developments in your life and vice versa.  It is also important as you adjust to your new culture to take a break from it; talking with friends and family from home is a great outlet for that.  However, if you find yourself feeling more critical and negative about your host culture after communication with home and sinking deeper into culture shock and stage 2 of it, perhaps you should reevaluate. 
Family and friends who are at home, you can help your student by learning about and recognizing the symptoms of culture shock.  This will help you to be more empathetic to their situation and also to worry less.  Being gracious, positive, and encouraging to them and about their new culture will also assist them in their adjustment to their host culture.  Additionally, if your student is experiencing culture shock sending them a care packages with some of their favorite foods, magazines, clothes, etc. from home may encourage them.
International Student Leaders go on trip for Leadership Training

Canyonville Christian Academy

250 E 1st Street Canyonville, OR 97417

8.  Share Your Feelings With Others
You never know who else around you is feeling or has felt the same way.  Feeling alone is one of the biggest hindrances of moving forward.  Others may be able to offer insight or advice that will help you in adjusting to your new culture.  Sharing what you are going through will help you to work through your feelings and find community.  
9.  Share Your Own Culture
Find friends, teachers, and other staff members at your school to share about your culture with: wear traditional garb, explain and celebrate a holiday from your culture, cook them a meal, teach them a phrase in your language, or share some treats from home.  Sharing your culture while learning about your new culture will help you to process the differences and begin to adjust and accept them.
10.  Keep A Sense Of Humor
It has been said that laughter is the best medicine so don’t be too hard on yourself as you are adjusting to your host culture.  If you say the wrong word, make a mistake in etiquette, or misunderstand what someone has said, keep it light and laugh at yourself; others will laugh with you, not at you. 

Culture Shock Tips from the Esparza's

Fernando and Gude Esparza have worked at Canyonville Christian Academy for 17 years. Mr. Esparza is CCA’s accountant and Mrs. Esparza teaches Spanish, Algebra, Science, and Bible.  They love CCA’s students and the special bond/relationships built with them every year.  They are looking forward to meeting and getting to know all of the new students for this 2017-2018 school year.  The Esparza’s are originally from Monterrey N.L. Mexico.  Their two daughters attended and graduated from CCA.  When they dropped their daughters off at CCA they fell in love with it.  Later, they moved to the U.S. and began working at CCA.  When working through culture shock the most difficult thing for them to adjust to was the food.  However, overall, they were surprised that the transition was not as hard as they thought it was going to be.  

Tips to Overcome Culture Shock from American Boarding School International Staff
Fernando & Gude Esparza with their granddaughter, Sophia

“Try not to worry so much about the differences in culture. Give it time.  You will soon start learning and understanding the language and culture. Don’t forget to have fun in the process and never be afraid to ask anything!  We are here for you, to help you grow and be prepared for the challenges you may face in the future.  Keep your identity.  You don’t have to change yourself for another culture.  Take all the good things this culture has and adapt or adopt them for your own life.”

Love, the Esparza’s


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