The Stages of Culture Shock for International Students.

 In College Life, Health Wellness and Safety
Coping with culture shock

Coping with culture shock

Studying abroad is the most exciting experience a young person can have. You learn about another culture, yes, and maybe another language, but most importantly, you learn a lot about yourself!

Are you flexible, do you have a positive attitude, are you curious and adventurous? These are personality traits that you will know for sure if you possess or do not after your study abroad experience.

Before you leave your home country, you may not question that you are all of these things, but soon after your arrival in your new country, you may well encounter culture shock.  And how you deal with this unsettling phase of your study abroad journey depends on the degree to which you can employ all the above traits listed above.

International students, like our own ESL students attending TALK English Schools here in the U.S.A., experience culture shock to a smaller or greater degree.  A big help in alleviating the worst effects of culture shock is knowing what culture shock is – and being prepared for it.  Counselors, educational and study abroad travel professionals refer to the five stages of culture shock.

The Stages of Culture Shock

1. The Honeymoon Stage – you are very positive, curious, and anticipate new exciting experiences. You even idealize the host culture. No culture shock here!
2. The Crisis Phase – boredom, irritability, hostility – unduly criticizing local customs or ways of doing things -withdrawal, sleeping a lot or tiring easily, aches and pains, homesickness,  these all mark the second phase of culture shock. Things are often made worse by ignorance the students encounter in the host community, or negative opinions expressed by the natives about their home country.  Others may experience forms of prejudice such as racism, intolerance of foreign accents and their early attempts at English. Reality hits.
3. The Adjustment Stage – you feel more relaxed and develop a more balanced, objective view of your experience.  Acceptance and understanding of your host culture mark a positive turnaround in your attitude.
4. Adaptation to multi- or bi-culturalism – there is a new sense of belonging and sensitivity to the host culture. Cultural adaptation and a feeling of security and well-being will be reflected in your work performance as well.
5. You feel at home, emotionally stable and are practicing new behaviors that are part of the culture.

The stages of culture shock can be overcome more easily if you are conscious that this reaction is very common for young, less traveled people. You are not alone, and can and should share these feelings with your family, your host family, school counselors or teachers. Another stage of culture shock is often unexpectedly felt when international students return home, and things are just not the way they idealized them! But that’s another blog that includes some tips on how to overcome culture shock.

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