Culture shock as an international student really can’t be avoided. The new experiences and challenges will be overwhelming no matter what you do.
That being said, there is a lot you can do to help handle the stresses of your new environment.
Learn the Language
Familiarity with the local language is the first step to handling culture shock as an international student. Language skills can help make the transition to life in a new country far easier.
From making new friends to finding the right building for your 7 am math class, improving language skills is a must.
Thankfully, there are plenty of free resources out there for international students to help you on the way to learning a second language—or third, or fourth.
English as a second language (ESL) classes at your university should be the first option to improving your English skills. If you don’t want to take ESL classes at your university there are multiple other options as well. You can take ESL classes at your local library, or through local non-profit outreach organizations that help immigrants and international students.
If you’re not a fan of taking classes, connecting with people and watching online english language videos can also help improve your English during your stay in the U.S.
Make Sure You Are Financially Stable Before You Leave
It’s important to create a stable environment while you study abroad. Financial security is the first step in that process.
As an international student, having your finances in order can save you precious time and energy upon arrival. All the added stressors of your international trip on top of financial problems can lead to some serious mental health issues that you want to avoid.
So, before leaving your home country make sure to secure adequate international student loans and find quality scholarships for international students. Financial stability is crucial to avoiding stress and depression on your trip abroad.
Housing stability is another part of creating a stable environment for yourself on your international trip. So, remember to make sure to secure your housing and finances before you move.
Finding hobbies at your new University is a great way to fight against culture shock. Taking classes at school like weight lifting, yoga, bowling, etc. can help you find something you love in your new home.
One great thing about the States is the variety of options we have when it comes to hobbies. Whether you are interested in swimming and diving or learning Ju-Jit-Su there are a number of options for international students to find something they love and connect with people who have similar interests.
Hobbies are the perfect healthy distraction during this stressful time of your life.
Connect With Your Community
Everyone knows the importance of community. As an international student, don’t be afraid to take advantage of student resources, clubs, etc. and connect with your university community. It’s a great way to handle culture shock when you study abroad.
Also, remember the U.S is a country of immigrants, so wherever you come from, you will find a thriving community of your countrymen and women in the U.S. Reach out to local organizations for international communities before your trip, you’d be surprised how many contacts you can get before you even arrive.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Emotional Roller Coaster
When I was in college I took a gap year and spent the time traveling through Vietnam and Thailand with some highschool friends. Although I had nowhere near the responsibility of an international student, I learned some important lessons that can translate to anyone living in a new country.
Traveling abroad can be a crazy experience. You will feel euphoric, depressed, thrilled and exasperated all in the span of a couple of hours—daily. It’s important to embrace the emotional roller coaster and the personal growth that comes with it.
This experience will bring new challenges, new sights, new smells—but perhaps most importantly—a new perspective on life. Don’t shy away from it, embrace it. After all, that’s why you’re traveling abroad in the first place.
Ask For Help
Handling culture shock can be difficult. Sometimes you may just need someone to talk to. There is absolutely no shame in that.
In fact, you’re not alone. According to a study done by Yale University in 2013, almost 45% of Chinese International students experienced symptoms of depression while studying abroad in the U.S.
There is no shame in reaching out for help while you are studying abroad. Whether you reach out to a classmate, teacher, faculty member, or a professional, there are always people out there willing to help.