When a person is in a new place, especially one inhabited by people of a different culture, he or she is likely to develop culture shock. Culture shock is a feeling of discomfort or disorientation experienced by a person who is thrust into an unfamiliar environment.
It’s not uncommon for foreign students or teachers to experience culture shock when studying or working in another country. That’s why adjusting to new cultures in an international school can be a challenge for some, especially if they are faced with academic responsibilities at the same time.
In this article, we tackle some tips for foreign students and teachers who struggle with the adjustment to a new culture, specifically in an international school setting. Read on if you are one of these people, or share if you know someone who needs extra help!
The best way to adjust to a new culture is by experiencing it firsthand with your senses. Be curious and observant of the habits of local students and even foreign nationals who seem well-adjusted. See the sights, know the history, try the cuisine, and most of all, listen and pay attention to the people.
The best part about this is that you’re sure to find both similarities and differences between your own culture and theirs, giving you a chance to relate to those around you.
In line with being observant is being open and accepting of the things you experience. This doesn’t mean letting go of values you hold dear, especially if they mean a lot to you. It also doesn’t mean accepting the bad parts of a given culture (since every culture has its pros and cons).
Rather, it means recognizing differences as opportunities to learn and try new things. In doing so, you’ll discover the best parts of the culture you grew up in as well as the one you’re currently surrounded by and thus get to experience the best of both worlds.
You can’t adjust to a new culture if you spend all your time by yourself, or in one place. Train yourself to explore—join clubs, have advocacies, and make friends. You need to immerse yourself with others if you want more than a surface-level understanding of the people around you. If you want to relate with them, you need to let them in first.
We recognize that it can be tough for you, as a student, to deal with culture shock. So don’t keep it to yourself. We discussed tips for parents to help their kids adjust in a previous article, but your parents won’t realize that you need help until you approach them. The same goes for guidance counselors—so if you need help, ask for it.
Another way to seek support is through other foreign students. Get to know them and befriend them. Being able to relate to others makes you feel safer and more comfortable in your environment, which is a big push toward feeling better.
Even with the previous tips we shared above, you don’t want to focus too much on socializing. While there’s nothing wrong with making friends, we still stress that the foremost purpose of being in an educational setting is to learn.
That’s why as a student, your first responsibility should be to your studies. Don’t let your challenge distract you from your academic responsibilities, and if you are having a hard time, don’t let low grades be an additional struggle for you to deal with.
Culture shock manifests itself in different ways, and people have their methods of dealing with it. Still, some people have a harder time than others coping with a new culture. If you feel that the stress is too much, it might be time to share your struggles with someone. You can tell a trusted friend or approach a responsible adult about it.
It’s okay to admit when the culture shock is too much and to talk about how it makes you feel. In most cases, this will lead to a stronger support system for you and a better relationship between you and the person you’re confiding in.
Finally and most importantly, understand that culture shock is a very real and serious thing, so don’t pressure yourself to get over it immediately. Take your time and allow yourself to make mistakes once in a while. If you offend someone, be humble and apologize. If you embarrass yourself, it can even be a chance for growth.
If you afford yourself this patience, don’t forget to do the same for others. Remember that everyone is adjusting to everyone else, all of the time. So allow others to make mistakes, get embarrassed, apologize, and be forgiven as well.
Adjusting to new cultures in an international school can be a challenge, especially for shy students and those whose cultures are vastly different from the ones they are currently experiencing. However, with the right support system, enough avenues for friendship, and the tips we offered above, you’re one step closer to adjusting to the new culture in your international school.
Whether you’re a student, a teacher, or even a parent, Reedley International School’s blog is full of tips and advice to guide you through your experience at an international blended-learning school in the Philippines. Check out the rest of our articles for more information!