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Culture Shock

Posted By Administration, Monday, November 19, 2012
Updated: Thursday, July 21, 2016

“All Americans are superficial and I can’t wait to go home.” This is a popular statement made by international students during their first semester of studying in the U.S. Initially students can develop a euphoria with America and the experience may meet or even surpass their previous expectations. However, when that wears off and homesickness starts to brew it is no surprise that students who have come to the U.S. to earn degrees experience some sort of shock. They may even develop disdain and seriously contemplate going back home. The language barrier alone can drive someone crazy, not to mention the learning curve to use American slang, greetings and common phrases. Culture shock just might be the most pressing issue for international students studying in the U.S., driving students to quit their studies and give up on earning the degree of their dreams.

There are multiple facets to experiencing this shock. Some symptoms below could be the initial phase of culture shock:

  • Anxiety
  • Loneliness
  • Feeling misunderstood
  • Asking: “Why am I here?"
  • Extreme homesickness

These symptoms are all very real and could be in result of the student comparing their culture and the value system in their home country to that in the U.S. Naturally new students make comparisons, but while in culture shock most comparisons will end with negative conclusions. What is an international student to do? There are many tips and tricks that revolve around an altered perspective to help ensure that the culture shock phase doesn’t last long.

Tip #1: Try not to compare and be open-minded. There are an immense number of differences between the U.S. and any other country. Trying to embrace those differences by opening oneself up to new experiences will guarantee an awesome international experience.

Tip #2: Reach out. As an international student it is very difficult to make new friends in the U.S. without introducing oneself or making attempts at consistent social interaction. There are numerous student organizations, clubs and groups on campus with like-minded domestic students eager to socialize around a cause or interest.

Tip #3: Use the resources provided to you. Academic counselors, the international student office, admissions office and new friends will all contribute to and support the transition into the U.S. and keep culture shock to a minimum. Consistently using these resources will serve the student well.

The expectations of international students usually exclude the reality of culture shock. But in order to excel academically an international student will most definitely need to feel comfortable in their new home. Helping students overcome these inevitable obstacles will ensure a smooth transition, adding great value to any U.S. campus. With a combined effort this issue can be minimized helping international students take away an unparalleled and invaluable college experience.

The Diversity Network sends its sincere thanks and appreciation to Kala Garner for sharing her thoughts on the most pressing issue facing international students in the U.S. today.  If you would like to share your thoughts, email us at members@diversitynetwork.org

Tags:  culture shock  International Students  Outreach  resources 

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