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Study Abroad: What is Culture Shock? How to Deal with it

Education takes place outside of the classroom as well. The entire world may serve as a school for learners who adore the concept of exploring new places as they learn. After completing your secondary education, enrolling as an international student while pursuing your college degree is a fantastic option to travel the world.

Being an international student might be thrilling, but it can also be a little culture-shocking. What is culture shock and how do you handle it? Learn more about the issue here, see cases of overseas students experiencing culture shock, and get some useful advice on how to handle it.

What is Culture Shock?

Although the phrase “culture shock” may sound terrifying, it merely describes the adjustment process you might go through as you become fully immersed in a foreign culture. It’s crucial to remember that culture shock isn’t always a bad thing. For instance, you might be thrilled about the chance to sample American cuisine and discover the diverse social norms.

But it’s also very natural to have some disorientation, especially in the first few weeks. While attempting to acclimate, international students can experience stress, confusion, and loneliness. It can be useful to keep in mind that you normally have access to on-campus resources as an international student to aid with your adjustment to life in the United States.

When a student is abruptly exposed to a culture that is extremely dissimilar from the society in which the student was nurtured, culture shock occurs. The learner may experience culture shock and feel astonished, perplexed, and anxious. First-generation college students are susceptible to experiencing college shock and may feel more stressed when they try to explain the difficulties of the transition to their families. International students who feel alienated by variations in language, religion, peer dynamics, and food may also experience culture shock.

what is culture shock

Could Culture Shock Be Affecting You?

Immersion in a foreign culture can occasionally result in tension, worry, and disorientation. Homelessness may also be a factor for you, which can make matters worse. It can be useful to develop a better awareness of typical concerns when dealing with international student culture shock in order to get through such trying periods.

Culture shock will affect almost all international students in some way. However, it’s not unusual to experience a variety of stages of culture shock, including:

  • Honeymoon Phase: The initial sensations of enthusiasm and even elation experienced upon eventually landing on your new campus in the United States are known as the honeymoon phase. You’re excited to discover your new neighborhood, meet new people, and try new things.
  • Culture Shock Phase: After the initial exhilaration wears off, you can begin to experience culture shock as a result of all the cultural variances. You can find it difficult to acclimate to the new temperature, struggle with the language, use the local transportation poorly, or miss your favorite foods. Although this stage can be distressing and disappointing, it’s crucial to keep in mind that it will pass and that you will successfully make the transition.
  • Adapted Phase: You will gradually get used to your new home away from home, albeit it can take some time. You’ll enjoy making new friends, exploring your new neighborhood with ease, and dining out at nearby eateries or the college cafeteria with your newly discovered favorite dishes.

Also Read: 12 People Who Pursued Higher Education after Fame

what is culture shock

Common Cases of Culture Shock Experienced by Foreign Students in the U.S.

Every culture has its own distinct set of social norms, habits, and expectations, as well as similar foods, languages, and other common practices. What is considered completely normal by someone from one culture may be viewed as absurd by someone from a different one. Here are a few factors that could throw international students studying in the United States for culture shock:

  • Informality: In comparison to many other cultures, American culture is typically rather informal. For instance, it’s not unusual for a younger person and an older person to know each other by first names. To show respect, you should still refer to your lecturers as “Professor” or “Doctor” in American society.
  • Conversation: In comparison to other cultures, Americans tend to have a more direct, open manner of speaking. American culture also values small conversation, whether you’re meeting someone for the first time or saying hello to an old friend. Everyday inquiries such as “How are you?” should be anticipated. “I’m doing well, thanks, and how are you?” is a typical response to this query.
  • U.S. Customary System: While many other nations use the metric system, measures in the U.S. are made using the U.S. Customary System. For overseas students who are used to estimating distance in kilometers rather than miles, it can take some getting used to.

Sometimes even the most unimportant, commonplace things can cause cultural shock. An overseas student could be startled to discover, for instance, that Americans tip for services when people in other countries do not, or that American drivers prefer to drive everywhere whereas individuals in other nations wouldn’t hesitate to walk a half-mile to a restaurant. Other surprises include the normal size of American cars and the mandated stopping at all stop signs.

How to Deal with Culture Shock as an International Student

If you’ve traveled to study abroad, you’re probably eager to experience a new setting and learn about a different culture. You might still experience culture shock, though. Fortunately, it is possible to get over culture shock, and there are lots of strategies to handle it. For advice on avoiding culture shock while studying abroad, read the following.

1. Examine Regional Traditions and Customs

When studying abroad, familiarizing yourself with the local culture is one of the best strategies to combat culture shock. For instance, reading up on the culture of the UK before you arrive can be useful if you’re attending a UK institution. You’ll learn how to blend in and interact with the community by doing this. Additionally, since you’ll be equipped to deal with the disparities between the two cultures, it helps you get over culture shock.

2. Journey and Discover Your New Environment

It’s simple to overlook all the fun aspects of studying abroad when you’re experiencing culture shock at university. Focus on the good and how much you have to look forward to rather than homesickness and what you miss. While culture shock is common when studying abroad, you don’t have to let it consume you. Explore your surrounds and embrace the adventure to get to know your host nation better. When you’re experiencing culture shock at university, becoming familiar with the local transportation system, customs, and surrounds may help you feel much more at ease and may even change the game.

3. Meet New People

Making the most of your experience while studying abroad is a typical strategy for overcoming culture shock. It will be possible for you to make new international friends. connect with others and make new acquaintances. There are students from your nation that can relate to you. At the same time, you can establish friends with people of different cultures and make it a point to both learn about and share their customs. Join societies and clubs to get over your university’s culture shock. You can do this to meet people who share your interests and establish friends for life.

4. Maintain Contact With Your Hometown Family and Friends

Homesickness is one of the elements that exacerbates culture shock. You could find it difficult to adjust at first because your relatives and friends back home won’t be as reachable. One approach to avoid culture shock while attending college is to stay in touch with the people you care about. Keep in touch with your loved ones and inform them of your progress whether it’s through WhatsApp, Skype, or Zoom. To cope with culture shock better, share your experiences with others and keep up your relationships.

5. Stress Reduction

When studying abroad, dealing with culture shock is more than simply puzzling and difficult. Stress can also result from it. Find healthy coping mechanisms for this tension, and take part in stress-relieving activities like exercise or a brand-new pastime. You can reduce the strain of going through culture shock by socializing and joining different student organizations.

6. Surround Yourself With Things You Know

University packing is a hectic process. Not only do you want to make sure you won’t forget anything crucial, but you also don’t want to overpack. Memorabilia and familar objects can be a big help in relieving culture shock when studying abroad by making you feel at ease and bringing back memories.

Cooking your favorite meals and being in touch with your origins while you are studying abroad is another method to surround yourself with familiar objects.

what is culture shock

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to settle down in a new place?

After moving to a new nation, it takes six to twelve months to settle in. Daily activities become ordinary over time, and the customs of the host nation become just another way of life.

Can you adapt to a new environment?

In many different methods, culture shock can be overcome. Some of them include keeping up with current events, maintaining a positive outlook, meeting new acquaintances, reading motivational books, etc.

How do you feel after relocating to a different nation?

Culture shock is the process of adjusting to a new environment and culture after moving abroad to live. When you interact with people from cultures other than your own, it might happen. A variety of emotions, including fear, loss of confidence, exhilaration, uncertainty, loneliness, and a lack of direction, can be brought on by culture shock.

How long does reverse culture shock last to get over?

A person gradually regains their emotional and mental stability as they become accustomed to a new culture and develop new coping mechanisms. While some people recover from this in a few weeks, others can require months.


Studying abroad is a wonderful experience that has numerous advantages. You gain access to incredible educational possibilities and can work to better your future in addition to learning about a new nation and culture. When studying abroad, culture shock can be unsettling, but it’s vital to realize that you’re not alone. There are many other people going through a similar experience, and it is feasible to get over culture shock. We sincerely hope that this article on avoiding culture shock will be beneficial and enhance your overall study abroad experience!



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