By Andreina Di Geronimo
“All Americans are superficial, obsessed about guns, and products. I can’t wait to go home." This is a common statement made by international students during their first semester studying in the U.S. This is an example of culture shock. Culture shock happens to almost everyone that is visiting a foreign country for the first time. A new environment and culture can make people feel disoriented and confused. Commonly, students coming to the USA get homesick and can present some kind of shock.
The language barrier, slang, small talk, different food, attitude, and customs can produce this kind of shock that comes with symptoms such as homesickness, loneliness, anxiety, and the need to go home. This feeling is almost inevitable, and we all are going to feel it at some point. The real question is: How can students overcome this shock? Many tips can help ensure that this phase does not last too long.
Tip 1: Be open-minded.
Try to see the cultural differences as a part of the learning path and new experiences. Try to understand the culture and the reason why people act in a certain way. Stop comparing your culture with their culture and think out of the box. Ask residents the story behind each weird custom and behavior. You will understand, and even adopt some of the things that you did not like at the beginning to your own culture.
Tip 2: Be positive.
I know it is easier saying it than doing it, but instead of looking at the bad side, start seeing the good part. If a lady starts a conversation in the supermarket, do not freak out. That is part of the culture and take advantage of it. Practice the new language instead. Try to ask her about the country. Look at the bright side of situations and you will adapt quicker than expected.
Tip 3: Do not feel embarrassed.
Let people know that you are new in that country. Normally, they are open to talk to you and teach you one or two things. If you feel overwhelmed because it is another language or culture, take a minute to just relax. Do not try to achieve perfection when learning another language, and do not feel embarrassed when making mistakes. Mistakes are more normal than you think. Even natives make errors when they talk. They will try to understand what you are saying instead of making fun of you or think that you are stupid. Moving to another country is hard and challenging. If you do, you should be proud of yourself. You are taking the risk to grow.
Tip 4: Do not stay at home.
Usually, students that go to another country spend too much time in their room studying or they just try to hide in their little caves. They unconsciously hide from society because the new country and new culture are too different and they are scared of not fitting in. Try to do the opposite. Go out every time you can, go for a walk to know the city, eat outside, see a movie, or chill at the park. It does not matter if you are alone. No one is going to judge you. That is how you make friends and know people. It is also important to reach out. There are many student organizations, clubs, and social groups for students facing the same situation who have the same feelings. Be part of a club or group of interest, and it is going to be easier to find friends with the same taste.
Tip 5: Use the school's resources.
If you are struggling with the cultural shock, talk to academic counselors, the international student office, the admissions office, or new friends. They will all understand, support, and give amazing tips that you will appreciate. Talking with someone is always useful to drain emotions and feel listened to. To succeed, international students will need to feel comfortable in their new home.
Following these tips is going to help you overcome the cultural shock. Every country is different and adapting to new experiences could be hard. It is helpful to know that you are not alone and this experience is actually going to help you in the future. New situations happen every day. Opening to new cultures is going to help you grow.
Andreina Di Geronimo from Venezuela is studying pre-courses for the health science program at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Florida. Her favorite things to do in Tampa are running the Riverwalk or along Bayshore and going to the beach.