Identifying Culture Shock In Foreign Students – Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, culture shock was identified as an anxious emotion experienced by foreign students when transitioning into a new environment and living abroad for an extended period of time. The remainder of this article will identify symptoms of culture shock and how one can cope with it

After the foreign students settle into their new environment and the novelty of living abroad becomes a reality, they may experience irritation and anger, and then begin to reject the new culture, and in some cases become aggressive. This can be identified as Stages II and III of culture shock. If you or someone you know is experiencing some or all of these signs, it is recommended to seek help from a school counsellor/official, guardian or healthcare professional. Although culture shock is common amongst foreign students, the symptoms experienced will vary from minor to severe. Some symptoms may include:

Physical Ailments
Due to anxiety and stress, foreign students may experience aches, pains and allergies.
Emotional and Psychological Symptoms
It is common for foreign students to feel homesick because they miss their family, friends, food, language and culture. Some students may feel sad, lonely, insecure, lack confidence and they question their decision to study abroad. If they continue to experience these feelings, they can potentially slip into a depression.

Withdrawal from Society
Students may refuse or minimize interactions with their classmates, homestay family, friends, teachers and school officials. In some extreme cases, the homestay families have reported students refusing to leave their room other than to attend school or eat dinner.

Because of the unfamiliarity with the host country’s culture, some foreign students may misinterpret actions, meanings and phrases of individuals, and feel they are being mistreated or exploited. As a result, they may resent or reject the host country’s culture by criticizing or stereotyping them.

Extreme Symptoms
Other severe symptoms experienced by foreign students are: obsession or lack of cleanliness, inability to eat or overeating and overdrinking. Some students may feel overly fatigued because they can’t sleep at night, and in some cases the stress causes them to want to over-sleep. It is normal to feel tired while adjusting to a new time zone; however, if students still feeling extreme fatigue after several weeks, they should seek medical attention.

Studying abroad can be a fun and positive experience, and it is important for foreign students to adapt to their host country’s culture. Here are some suggestions to cope with culture shock:

1.Learn about the host country

Prior to moving to the host country, it is strongly recommended that students learn about things such as customs and especially the language of their host country. Learning basic phrases will also make it easier to express and communicate their thoughts.

2.Take care of your health

It is important to take care of one’s health by eating well, sleeping, and exercising regularly. Foreign students sometimes find it difficult to adapt to their host country’s food and may skip meals or eat very little. Food fuels the mind and body; eating regularly will give them the energy to study.

3.Develop and foster new friendships and relationships

One of the best ways to learn about the host country and to overcome cultural differences is to develop new friendships and relationships with local people. This is also a great way to share the foreign student’s culture and a great channel to talk about their experiences back home which can help ease homesickness.

4.Maintain contact with friends and family members

Maintaining contact with friends and family members is a good source of support. Although family may be far away, it helps to share experiences – whether good or bad.

5.Get Involved

Getting involved in extracurricular activities at school, or enrolling in art, music or sport programs are great ways to meet new friends, and experience the host country’s culture by living as a local.

6.Be flexible and open-minded

By being flexible and open-minded about the differences of the host country’s culture, foreign students will likely enjoy their experiences abroad and this will help lessen the stress levels.

7.Have Confidence in Yourself!

Although foreign students may experience difficulties during their studies abroad, they need to have confidence in themselves to weather the storm. There will be minor hiccups, but in the end they should reflect on their achievements and focus on their successes!

By Le Luong