Coping with Culture Shock

Culture shock can be discouraging, but remember that you are not alone. Here are some tips for coping with culture shock.

Updated over a week ago

Understandably, almost all students will experience some level of homesickness and culture shock.

In some students, it will manifest greater than others. You might feel angry, withdrawn or react in other ways. If you struggle with feeling angry with your host family or your school, please understand that what you are feeling is a normal part of culture shock. With time, you will feel more at ease.

Communicate with your SRS representative if you have questions about culture shock or are struggling to adjust to your new life with your host family.

Symptoms of culture shock can include:

Headaches - Nausea - Depression - Sleeping Problems - Poor hygiene - Panic attacks - Withdrawal / Isolation - Extreme homesickness

Tips for coping with culture shock:

1. Explore your new city or do something active

Channel your inner tourist and simply explore your new location. This might re-ignite your excitement about studying abroad. Try to have fun with it! Take pictures, taste new foods, go on a hike, buy a local treat for yourself or take a tour of the city.

Another way to get your mind off homesickness is to start a new hobby. Finding a hobby specific to your new location can make this extra fun and help to immerse you in the local culture. For example, if you are studying abroad by the beach, try surfing! Doing things specific to your location can help remind you why you decided to study abroad in the first place.

Physical activity may be the last thing you want to do when you're feeling down, but it is worth a try. Anything that moves your body and gets your blood flowing can release endorphins, clear your mind and make a huge difference in your mood.

2. Try to stay in the present moment 🦋

The past is behind you and the future has not happened yet—all we have is right now. Staying in the present can help ease your anxiety and make you feel calm and relaxed. Try to stay positive and be open-minded about this experience.

How can you tap into the present moment? Simply focus on your breathing for a few moments. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and think about five things in your life that you are grateful for. This quick exercise can help stop any negative thought spirals in your mind and get you back on track.

3. Contact your loved ones back home regularly (but not constantly)

Schedule calls to keep in touch with your loved ones. Scheduling calls at a time that works for both timezones is a great way to ensure that you'll be able to catch up. Also, plan visits with them if possible. Planning a call or a visit can boost your morale by giving you something to look forward to.

Of course, it's important to reach out to loved ones back home for emotional support. However, if your mind is always daydreaming about life back home, you might miss out on some special moments during your time abroad. Keep in mind, the more experiences you have while you're here, the more new and exciting stories you will have to share with your friends and family back home.

4. Develop a routine so daily tasks are easy to manage

By making something part of your daily or weekly routine, you can learn how to master it quickly and it will become a habit. Soon enough, you'll be able to navigate grocery stores in the USA, easily complete your share of household chores and more.

Nobody does anything perfect the first time, it always takes practice. Don't forget, your host family is there to help! It's always okay to say something like, "I am not sure how to do this. Can you show me how?"

5. Practice your English skills as much as possible

Communicating with people in the local language will help you gain confidence, understand the culture and feel connected to those around you.

students talking

6. Spend time with your host family!

Yes, it may be a little awkward at first as you get to know each other—but the more you spend time with them, the more comfortable you will be. Get involved in family activities, eat meals with the family and talk with your hosts about how you're feeling.

Your alone time is important, but try not to isolate in your room too much. Over-isolating can increase feelings of anxiety and make you feel even more lonely.

7. Limit your time on social media 📵

Isolating to spend time on social media can make you feel 100x worse, especially when you are comparing everyone's Instagram-life to your own real life. It may appear that everyone's life is "perfect", with no challenges, anxiety or struggles—but that is not true! What we see on social media is a only tiny fraction of a person's real life.

Everyone is on a different journey. It may take you a little longer to adjust than someone else, but that does not mean that you won't have an amazing experience abroad. If possible, put your phone away and check back into present in the moment.

8. Remember that you are not alone

Find people to socialize with, take part in student events or talk to other students about how you feel. Ask a school counselor for help finding and connecting with other international students at your school. There are many international students who are probably feeling the exact same way.

Speak to your host family or a member of our team if you are feeling vulnerable or not settling in. Remember that asking for help is a sign of strength and we are here to support you!

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