everything is not so fascinating now, the first burst of
learning and stimuli is gone. The student is no longer the
center of attention.
Stage 3: How can they live like that? Now several months
away from home, homesickness may be common. With the
holidays approaching, depression sets in, and the student
may feel like an outsider. “It’s not all I dreamed it would be.”
Sometimes there is a rejection of the culture (“Our ways
are better”), isolation from the host culture, more seeking
out of same nationality friends, and the “I’m tired of trying”
mentality. This is normal and OK. This is culture shock and
Stage 4: Let’s get on with it! The student decides that there
are only a few months left to get on with it, to make the best
of the time left. In some areas, it’s spring, there is a rebirth,
and the bleakness of the winter is leaving. The student
develops a new understanding of live and let live and
becomes accommodating. Home culture values, attitudes,
beliefs, and ideas are no longer threatened by the new
Stage 5: I feel “at home.” The final stage is achieved when
the individual completely functions in the foreign culture
as in the home country. The student begins to act and react
much as a native would in the host culture environment.
The individual even learns to behave in the very way s/he
found so distracting, disturbing or disgusting in Stage 3. This
final stage is not always reached, nor is it always a 100%
positive stage, since at times students try too hard, and
uncomfortable situations occur. We all know people who
have felt “at home” and who know the language and culture
of the country so well that they truly are “at home.”
Coping with Culture Shock
What is culture shock? When a person lives in a new culture,
many of the things that s/he is accustomed to are gone.
Sometimes, one has to think about the simplest of things.
When a person first lives in a new culture, it is fun to see
the differences and to learn how to do things differently.
Sometimes, however, a person can get tired of having to
remember how to do so many things differently. S/he may
feel that everything is different; nothing seems familiar or
comfortable. This is very common and almost everyone who
lives in a different culture feels this way at some time. When
it becomes a problem, it is called “culture shock.”
Culture shock means that the mind is tired of having to
think about everything. Instead of trying to adjust to the
new society, a person may withdraw, become quiet, feel
confused and angry, or wonder if they can get along in such
a strange place.
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Since culture shock is a normal reaction to living in a foreign
culture, the family may need to help the student when such
symptoms arise. In order to cope with culture shock, the
family and student need to understand what it is and that it
is normal to feel that way in an unfamiliar environment.
If no one in the family has ever experienced culture shock
traveling to a foreign country, then they should think of a
time when they moved within the US, began working in a
new office or company, started in a new school, or traveled
to another city. The same feelings can be experienced in
these situations. Anxiety and irritation are almost always a
part of traveling, a new job, or moving. Even knowing the
new procedures is not enough to relieve the frustration of
having to think “how” to do something that is automatic
under more familiar circumstances.
There are both physiological and psychological signs when
someone is experiencing culture shock.
Here are some of them:
••Sleepiness or insomnia
••Compulsive eating or loss of appetite
••Recurrent minor illnesses and rashes
••Loneliness or boredom
••Homesickness/idealized feelings about home
••Sense of helplessness, overdependence
••Irritability, perhaps hostility
•••Unwarranted concern for cleanliness and/or
••Rebellion against rules
Any of these indicators alone may not necessarily mean that
the student is finding his or her adjustment to be difficult.
The student’s total behavior will determine if s/he needs
help in coping with culture shock.
When the student shows signs of culture shock, the host
family or Campus Coordinator should talk with him or her
about the adjustment cycle. Students should try to identify
the things, even if very insignificant, that are contributing to
their discomfort. If the host family or Campus Coordinator
finds out what is bothering the student and tries to
understand why s/he is irritable, this may help relieve the