Cultural adjustment, or ‘culture shock’, is a natural transition and is something everyone goes through when adjusting to something new. However, in your situation, it also has the added pressure of a new culture, country, people, and possibly language. All students starting at UEA are going through the same adjustment, you just have more to deal with.
There is a lot of research out there if you are interested, but here is a typical transition pattern people face:
Honeymoon or initial excitement stage
You have just arrived, everything is new and different and it is all very exciting. Your mood is high and you are looking forward to this new experience.
Cultural Shock or irritation and hostility stage
The excitement has worn off and you focus more on the differences. These differences can seem like huge obstacles even though they may be a simple or basic part of your normal life. You may start to feel homesick, your mood feels down, you are more stressed, and you are irritable.
You are starting to get used to your new life, ways of doing things. You start to understand how things work and can pick up on differences and accept them, before you get annoyed at the differences. You start to experience personal achievements in adapting to the UK, and you mood has more highs and lows as the adjustment gradually develops
Adaptation or feeling at home stage
The culture is no longer new or viewed as different. You have started to become bicultural, and can appreciate the UK and British culture alongside your home culture. You are back to being yourself and can live and work to your full potential.
Ongoing and help
This adjustment period is different for everyone and effects them in different ways. You may repeat some of these stages, which is normal, but it will be less intense and will not last as long. Your lows will go quicker and your highs will last longer.
Talk to other students about it. You will find that even British students have gone through a similar adjustment. Other international students will know exactly what you are going through. Even if they do not show it, they will have struggled with cultural adjustment in their own way.
Recognising how you are feeling and what might be causing it is important to improve your mood and your experience. Come and talk to an International Student Adviser in the Student Support Centre, who understand the difficulties you are going through.
Symptoms of Culture Shock
- Avoiding contact with others, especially British
- Difficulty studying effectively
- Change in eating habits
- Change in mood
- Change in sleeping pattern
Other ways to help with Cultural Adjustment
- Learn a bit more about cultural adjustments and realise it is a natural part of living somewhere new.
- Share your feelings and experiences with others
- Get involved on campus and in the community
- Build a support system of people you can support you. It can include people back home and in the UK.
- Take care of yourself. Eat well, exercise, rest, and take care of your mental health too.
- Give yourself some personal time, especially if speaking in a foreign language all day, which can be exhausting.
- Ask questions, learn and try to understand more about the UK and the British.
- Set some small goals to help you adjust.
- Stay positive and seek help and support when you need it.