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When you first came to the United States you were so excited. Everything was new and interesting. You are eager to learn about your home for the next four years, make lifelong friends, get used to an entirely different way of life, and, of course, go to your classes!

A few weeks later, something changed. You feel sad, lonely and anxious. All the things you thought were so interesting and exciting about the United States annoy you. You miss home and everything you used to do there. Most of all you miss your friends and family.

If this sounds familiar, you might be suffering from culture shock. Don’t get discouraged. Every international student has it. Culture shock improves with time, and there are things you can do to manage it.

What is Culture Shock?

People who are traveling or living far away from home often experience culture shock.  For most people, culture shock follows a predictable pattern.

First there’s the excitement stage, everything is new and you’re surrounded by opportunities. Then you get frustrated. Why is everything so different here? Why do people act the way they do? Why can’t you get good food like you had at home? This is the feeling most people are talking about when they say they have culture shock.

Usually, your frustration fades away with time. You start to adjust to your temporary home. Finally, you accept the differences. Soon you’re comfortable again and you wonder what you were so upset about.

Accept culture shock and meet it head on.

You can’t really avoid culture shock. It’s a natural part of adapting to a new culture. Remind yourself that culture shock is normal, and you can make it better.

Here are some things that might help you:

  • Make friends: Spending time with students from the United States can help you feel like you belong here. You can talk with them about the differences between your countries. Many students will be excited to learn more about your culture. You should also find other international students to spend time with. They are going through the same experience as you are. Talking with them can make you feel less alone.
  • Do things you like to do: Your habits and favorite activities can come with you to the United States. Find ways to do the things you loved doing, even if they’re a little different here. Following comfortable routines can make you feel more relaxed. You’ll feel even better if you can find someone who likes to do the same things you do.
  • Talk to people back home: The internet makes it easy for you to talk to friends and family at home. Calling or chatting with them can make you feel less alone. Just remember to keep making friends at school as well. You need a good balance of new and old friends to feel supported.
  • Stay busy: Even though you might feel anxious or more tired than normal, it’s important to find activities to occupy your time. You can: study, volunteer, attend campus events, join a club, go to the movies, or meet a friend for coffee. When you stay busy you don’t have time to be anxious and worried.

If you need help fighting culture shock, talk to the international office on campus. Every international student has experienced culture shock, so the advisors there know how to help you deal with it. They can help guide you, so you can enjoy the adventure of studying in the United States.

Learning about the experiences of other international students can help you avoid culture shock too. Read about Jenish P. Tandel’s experience in the U.S.