Out of the many challenges students face when they study abroad, cultural shock can definitely be one of these. If you are about to move abroad for studying, you may experience the so-called "cultural shock", an initial sense of disorientation due to the impact on the new cultural and social environment in which you moved. But don't worry, below you will find some tricks to overcome it!
What is a cultural shock?
A cultural shock is a psychological and emotional sensation that occurs when a person feels a gap between his social and cultural identity. These people feel lost, and they do not know how to deal with this feeling. Cultural shock usually manifests with acute and/or chronic symptoms: anxiety, frustration, irritability, isolation and even physical symptoms. These symptoms vary in intensity based on the psychological condition of the individual. Here are some tips for successfully avoid it and overcome the initial difficulties.
Try to overcome nostalgia
Changing habits is always risky, but the risk exponentially increases if you are not well prepared and informed. Moving to a new country has an emotional impact that can be more or less strong depending on how you react. Some people are excited about their new experience and adapt to it immediately. Others, after a difficult initial period, succeed in overcoming the stress and find their way later.
However, there are many students who feel blocked, confused, and who experience psychological and/or physical illness when arriving in a foreign country. They suffer what is commonly called homesickness, and this can affect their studies and their lives.
For being prepared to overcome these negative feelings, it is good to know what is a cultural shock and try to recognize its symptoms. For example, if you tell to yourself "I feel these things because they are caused by a cultural shock" you will put yourself in a conscious position and it will be easier to stay calm and more relaxed.
Learn some basic phrases
First of all, you need to acknowledge the country's culture and check if you have an adequate level of the language spoken there. If English is widely spoken you can just rely on your English skills. However, if English is not the official language of the country you are moving to, and it is not widely spoken, you should really have at least a basic level of the language spoken in the place you chose to live in. Learn some basic phrases of the place you are moving to.
Remember that it is normal
Globetrotters know it, cultural shock is part of the adventure. Since the beginning, you should look for all the possible ways to break the initial isolation. It is important to make new friends, try to get to know people through sport activities or by practicing your favourite hobbies.It is very important to be reactive and participative. Always remember that feeling disoriented at the beginning is absolutely normal and human. Never forget that it takes time for you to feel comfortable in a completely new context; we've all went through that difficult period, but at the end, you will certainly find your own new dimension in the place you chose to live in!
Try to find an accommodation before moving
During their exchange period, most international students find searching for accommodation quite difficult. Apartments are often quickly seized, landlords can't even manage to answer all received requests, and prices can be out of the budget. Yet, there's no need to panic; despite the challenges, there are several ways to find a suitable room. For example, online housing platform such as Housing Anywhere, aim at facilitating that process making it less painful, by offering a vast range of accommodation and a secure service.
Bring along something that reminds you of home
Leave space in your suitcase to bring something that makes you feel at home even in your new place, whether it's a poster, a photo, a postcard, etc. Having something that reminds you of home will have a positive impact on your mood, especially in moments where you might be caught up with a bit of nostalgia.
Explore, explore, explore
Take full advantage of this opportunity to explore the new country that hosts you. At least during the first period, be sure to visit a new place every day, for example, just by taking a different way home. And take the weekend to do some out-of-the-way trips. Focus on the local culture, the food, the sights, the sounds. Immerse yourself in your new place!
Have an open mind
The best way to limit the impact of cultural shock is to have an open mind. Try typical dishes you could never find at home and never reject an invitation to go out. In this way, you will not only build friendship ties with your new friends, but you will do things that you will always remember. This is a great exercise even to discover many more things about other cultures and about yourself.
Having the chance of living in another country is a privilege and it must be seen as a chance not to waste. Not everyone can afford to live abroad, so it is our duty to make the best out of it!