Many International Students Experience Culture Shock when arriving in the United States. Culture shock is a word that describes the feeling of distress when moving from a familiar culture and environment to one that is unfamiliar.
Being separated from your family and experiences many changes such as meeting a lot of different and new people, learning the ways of a new country, can cause International students to experience homesickness and distress; these are symptoms of culture shock.
In addition to homesickness, international students might experience a new form of culture shock caused by the “new normal” ways of society that COVID-19 has created. USA’s response to COVID-19 as well as the social rules like social distancing might strike some feelings of unfamiliarity.
Tips to Deal With Culture Shock
Prepare Yourself for What’s to Come:
Since culture shock is the effect of not being familiar with a new environment, researching beforehand can help eliminate the element of surprise. Some questions to ask yourself: Is the university requiring COVID-19 vaccine cards? What are things you should know before moving on campus? You should research the area surrounding the campus, familiarize yourself with the lifestyle of the students attending the university and check to see if the new COVID-19 regulations are being enforced. This will help prepare you for the new environment and allow for a smooth transition to the US.
Maintain a Balanced Diet:
Culture shock can bring a lot of emotional strain and you might find yourself in a low mood. A balanced diet can help boost your mood levels. Incorporate bananas, berries, fatty fish, beans, nuts, and dark chocolate into your diet. These foods help increase serotonin, the hormone responsible for regulating your mood.
Maintaining an active lifestyle is another way to regulate your mood and release stress. Exercise can bump the production of the brain’s feel-good hormones like endorphins. Go to your campus gym, join a sports club, or simply go for a walk around your campus.
Maintain Your Connections:
You might be feeling culture shock due to being separated from your friends and family back home or missing life before COVID-19. Keep in contact with the people you love from back home. Call your family once a day and actively share pictures to maintain a close relationship and keep the connection from your home country alive in your new environment.
Create a Safe Space:
Surround yourself with familiar items that remind you of your home country or life before COVID-19. This can be done by decorating your dorm with items that will help you connect with what you are missing. Create a picture wall and add pictures of your family, friends, and favorite memories. While you might be in an unfamiliar environment, creating a familiar environment can help relieve feelings of culture shock.
Practice Self Care:
Culture shock can cause stress, which can weaken your immune system, cause, or increase anxiety, and tamper with your memory. It is important to practice methods of self-care to decrease your stress levels. Get a good night’s sleep, try to incorporate coloring or painting as a hobby, meditate, try a face mask or a hair mask, and eat your favorite foods.
Keep a journal:
If you are experiencing culture shock, you are likely experiencing a lot of emotions. Keeping these emotions bottled up can have negative effects in the long run. Bottling up your feelings can create or increase anxiety, weaken the immune system, and even cause headaches. Journaling can help you release any stored emotions, manage feelings of anxiety, boost your emotional intelligence, provide clarity, and put things into perspective.
You are not alone:
Culture shock is very common among international students. It might be helpful to find a support group where students can encourage each other and fight culture shock together. Universities like the University of Pennsylvania offer a support group for international students to feel safe and supportive. Contact your school on a support group you can join. If your school does not have a support group, ask how you can start one!
Hopefully, these tips can help you manage feelings of anxiety and negative emotions caused by culture shock. Practice these tips and beat your inner fears to achieve your goals as an international student!