Redefining the Classroom

Culture Shock

Moving to a new country often brings about culture shock. This feeling is experienced when a person is taken out of a familiar environment and becomes integrated into a completely new environment. People often feel disoriented, dissatisfied, or perhaps even frustrated because this new culture is completely different than that of their home country. During the first few weeks of your stay in the U.S., many things will happen as you adjust to the customs of the U.S. and participate in activities at LSSU. There are generally several phases that new international students experience during the period of adjusting to a new culture. Please note that different people will be affected by the transition to a new culture in varying degrees. Below is a general pattern of cross-cultural adjustment. Your won experience might be weaker or stronger based on a variety of personal characteristics and previous life experiences.

STAGE ONE: Cultural Surprise

The first days in a new culture are filled with observing all the things that are new to you. These differences are perhaps superficial, but they are the basis of your first impressions. People dress differently, signs are in a different language, and people’s nonverbal communication is different (gestures, eye contact, touching behaviors, etc…an example of this might be that people smile or are friendly to you even though you do not know them – what does this mean?)

STAGE TWO: Cultural Stress

After a short time, the feeling of everything being new fades into a period of more in-depth encounters with the culture. You find yourself more involved in the activities of the “new” culture and you are forced to respond to the behaviors of people whose actions you do not fully understand. It is often easier just to blindly follow and do what you are told even though the activity may not make sense to you. Examples include finding out what is expected of you both in and out of class, registering for classes, and shopping for yourself. Just speaking the language that is not your native language all the time can be exhausting and adds to your fatigue of trying to understand other parts of the culture.

STAGE THREE: Culture Shock

Over time the stress of living in an environment that is unfamiliar to you wears you down both physically and emotionally. As with any stressful situation, it is normal to either want to withdraw into yourself, or resist what you perceive to be threats to you (reactions called “flee” or “fight”). Culture shock does not come at one shocking moment, but is a gradual process both leading up to it and coming out of it. Culture shock is a normal phychological reaction to the stress of living in another culture.

You experience feelings of tension and anxiety because you have lost familiar cultural signals. The behavior of those around you may not be predictable based on your life’s experiences. Your actions do not always get you what you want and your inability to communicate effectively with others is frustrating.

STAGE FOUR: Confidence Regained

At some point you find out how to become effective and regain yourself confidence that can be lost during the period of culture shock. At this point, you not only know how to get around your own culture, you have acquired the confidence and ability to get round in the new culture as well.

Some Helpful Suggestions for Dealing with Culture Shock:

  • Try to avoid isolation–talk to your friends, campus staff, professors or others you trust about what you are feeling. Remember, these are normal reactions to stress and are nothing to be ashamed of.
  • Keep your sense of humor. Try to laugh off situations that are confusing.
  • Try to withhold judgment on something until you understand it.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask people about situations you do not understand.
  • Take care of your health, get enough sleep, exercise, and eat well.
  • Do things you enjoy doing: paint, play music, etc.

Some Signs for You to Consider Seeking Help from a Professional Counselor:

  • Persistently feeling sad
  • Feeling helpless and hopeless
  • Excessive worries
  • Sleeping/Eating too much or too little
  • Feeling physically tired/exhausted
  • Lack of energy, motivation and interests
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself
  • Feeling extremely lonely and socially isolated
  • Big changes in your behaviors (e.g., decreasing academic performance)

The LSSU Counseling Services:

Location: 623 W. Easterday Ave (next door to the Health CARE Center)
Hours: 8:00am – 4:30pm (Hours may vary)
Contact Information: Telephone (906) 635-2752
E-mail is not used for scheduling appointments, counseling issues, or emergency contact and is not monitored 24 hours a day.
Eligibility: All LSSU students who are fully admitted and currently enrolled
Fees: Services are free of charge.
For more information on the Counseling Services visit the LSSU Conseling Services page.