One challenge you’ll encounter as an international student is how to adapt to a new culture in your new environment.
When you receive the news of your admission into your dream university overseas, it comes with excitement and a sense of high expectations.
Your excitement stems from the fact that studying abroad is a remarkable decision that you have made.
You feel so because…
Studying abroad can easily lead to building a successful career, making lasting friendships, finding new interests, and improving communication skills.
With such excitement, you get set to migrate to your new country. And easier and earlier than you expected, you’re in the country you’ve only lived in your dream. However, this time, you’re there in flesh and blood!
The excitement starts giving way to disillusionment, stress, and confusion.
You begin to notice how you perceive, react and approach issues is very different from how everyone else does.
You feel awkward and odd and probably think something is wrong with you.
Nothing is wrong with you.
You’re only experiencing culture shock.
“What’s culture shock”? you may ask.
Culture shock happens when you feel confused, stressed, and disoriented in a new environment.
Most international students are bound to experience culture shock and face difficulty adjusting to the new culture, regardless of their migrating country.
The values, social norms, and traditions in your new country may be significantly different from the way of life of your country. It’s not out of place for people to naturally take their background and life experiences with them wherever they go.
For instance, students coming from a country where lecturers are feared and treated as demi-gods will not find it easy to adapt where lecturers are easily accessible and relate to students naturally.
As I said before, culture shock is almost inevitable when you’re new in an environment. And people react differently to cultural shock and may experience the symptoms in varied grades.
What matters is:
How prepared are you for the inevitable culture shock? What are the best ways to adapt to the new culture in which you found yourself?
Understanding the adjustment process and patiently seeking support through this change will not only help you achieve a fulfilling experience. But it will also make you settle down with a lot of ease.
Today, you’ll learn how to adjust to a new culture as an international student but first, let’s understand why adjusting to a new culture is crucial.
Why Adjusting to a New Culture is Important.
Culture, they say, is relative.
What does that mean?
Cultural relativism is the idea that social behavior is different among cultures. So, what is right in one culture may be wrong in another. And the hallmark of cultural relativism is that no one culture is superior to another; they’re only different.
So as an international student, you’re likely to lose more if you consider your culture superior to another and find it hard to adjust to the culture of your new environment.
Want to know why?
Conforming to a new culture may be challenging in most cases. However, with patience and the right mindset, you’ll learn more about yourself and develop more confidence and the ability to sail through new circumstances.
Moreso, adjusting to a new culture will help you appreciate your cultural practices more.
Lastly, you’ll develop a strong sense of connection with others.
Now that you know why you should strive to adapt to your new environment, it’s time we talked about the best ways to cope in your new environment.
Let’s dive in!
By the time you finish going through these coping mechanisms, you will have little or no fear about how you’d adjust to your new environment.
9 Best ways To Adapt To a New Culture As An International Student
- Open Your Mind.
When you’re open-minded, you can consider other perspectives and show understanding with other people even when you disagree with them. As an international student in a new environment, being open-minded doesn’t mean you should abandon your value. What it means is that you should be open to learning how people do things in your new environment.
- Observe your environment
In your new environment, there may be rules entirely different from the rule patterns in your home country. Observing what people do in the circumstances and doing the same is a sure way of adapting to a new culture.
- Be Interrogative.
Where I come from, there’s a saying that “someone who asks questions rarely makes costly mistakes.” An international student in a new culture should be able to ask questions. Doing so is not synonymous with weakness instead, it’s a sign that you want to learn fast and get familiar with the communication system of your new country.
- Allow Yourself to Make Mistakes
One great disservice you’ll do yourself when you’re in a new environment is to refuse to try new things because you don’t want to make mistakes. It pays you more if you allow yourself to make mistakes. People will laugh at you, but you will learn new things from your mistakes.
- Get a Cultural “Consultant”
The word “consultant” as used here doesn’t suggest you should look for a professional whose job is to advise people on matters of culture. The person could be a fellow student who is more knowledgeable than you in the culture of your host country.
Do you know why you need such a person?
So that if you have any questions or confusion about a particular behavior in your new environment, you can easily reach out to the person for solutions and clarification.
- Reach out to Other International Students
Seeking the assistance of fellow international students who are probably going through a similar experience as yours may be an easy way to navigate your new environment.
The reason is this:
When you discuss with others how they adjust to their new environment, you may have ideas and insight about your own predicaments.
- Remain Patient and focused
You can’t learn everything about your new environment at once. What happens in your new home is ongoing and requires a lot of patience and time before you get used to it. So, be patient and learn at your own pace. With time, you’ll be used to your new environment without losing your own values.
- Be mindful of your Health.
One of the ways to adapt to a new culture is to eat right and exercise regularly. You can find the kind of exercise that you love and which won’t be challenging for you. Exercising as a part of your daily routine will reduce stress and the propensity to fall sick.
Read also: 9 Most Legal, Easiest, and Surefire ways to Migrate to Canada.
Common symptoms of culture shock
Now that you know the various ways to adapt to a new culture as an international student, it’ll be super important to know the common symptoms of culture shock.
Let’s jump in!
One way to know that you have a culture shock in your new environment is that you’ll have an impregnable longing to visit home.
Feeling homesick makes you nostalgic, grieved, anxious, sad, and withdrawn.
- Feelings of helplessness/dependency
You might have a wild feeling of hopelessness and be unable to take full responsibility for your own feelings.
- Disorientation and isolation
Disorientation is an emotional state where one is confused about time, self, and location. A culturally shocked person might also wittingly or unwittingly isolate self from others.
Want to learn more?
- Depression and sadness
You’ll have a low mood and lose interest in most activities, feeling unnecessarily sad.
Hyperirritability is a mental and physical state that describes an exaggerated reaction to an action. In the case of someone experiencing a culture shock, it may include inappropriate anger and hostility
- Sleeping and eating
Someone going through a culture shock may tend to eat and sleep too much or vice versa.
You may develop a fixed and generalized belief or opinion about your host community. The stereotype itself is a wrong idea because you can’t have an opinion about a whole country based on your encounter with a few of its people.
This article discusses various ways to adapt to a new culture as an international student, the importance of adjusting to a new culture, and the symptoms of culture shock.
As an international student, you may feel awkward, depressed, and disoriented while trying to get used to your new environment.
It’s not a futile exercise!
Adapting to a new environment takes time, and the rate at which individuals adapt differs.
But you’re assured of one thing:
Adapting to a new environment will help you learn more about yourself and build confidence while coping with the challenges of your new home.
You’ll also have the opportunity to appreciate your own culture
Also, bear in mind that:
Adapting to a new culture is a continuing action. It may take time, but it’s something you’ll appreciate in the long run.
Moreso, you’re not alone in your struggle.
You have many people in the university community to provide you with the necessary assistance; reach out to them.
Did you find this article educative?
Feel free to drop your comment in the comment section.
Recommended: How to Apply for International Scholarships.