YFU Handbooks - Page 36

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 culture fatigue. 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 culture. 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. 36 - CCP HANDBOOK 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: Physiological indicators ••Sleepiness or insomnia ••Compulsive eating or loss of appetite ••Recurrent minor illnesses and rashes ••Stomach upsets ••Headaches ••Psychological indicators ••Loneliness or boredom ••Homesickness/idealized feelings about home ••Sense of helplessness, overdependence ••Irritability, perhaps hostility ••Social withdrawal •••Unwarranted concern for cleanliness and/or physical security ••Rebellion against rules ••Crying 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 situation.