Cultural shock is common in exchange students, is caused most of the time because of the impact of exposing yourself to a new environment different from home. It’s a normal feeling, at the end of the day every human being is afraid of newness. The real shock starts when you try to recreate a pattern from home as simple as eating or taking the bus, this new experience can be triggered by this new life style and can be express as stress, anxiety and depression. In this project we will share the experience of students from all around the world in the University of Mississipi.
The Phases of Culture Shock
These are some elements that can contribute to cultural shock:
It tastes different, it might be too greasy, salty, too soft or too heavy; or even flavorless, the way you can adjust to the new food is eating more vegetables or fruit, and finding options that tastes like home (or even finding new dishes that you like!).
Climate can be so different from home, especially in the summer, weather can get really hot and in the fall or winter can get really cold. You may not be used to this changes so the best advice is to be aware of this and get prepared.
It may be obvious, but keep in mind that you will meet people from all around the world, with different beliefs and probably opposite opinions on topics such as religion, politics, ethics or lifestyle; keep your mind open and the key is to respect others and engage in debates only if the other person is open to a dialogue.
How to deal with Culture Shock
When you arrive to a new place, the first and maybe the most important thing you have to do, is to avoid comparisons; it’s hard not too do it when you feel that “back home this or that is totally different”. Take your time to observe the new space where you’re now, try to understand it and don’t judge it right away just because it’s different.
Embrace the Space
You’re now living in a brad new space (at least for you!). Make the space yours, sit on a bench and feel the air, watch the trees, accept that this new place will be your new home for few months.
This will help you to start liking the new place more, go out for a walk, take your time, see all the restaurants that you now have around, try new food and talk to new people. This will help make you feel more comfortable with the space you’re now a part of.
This would be a very important piece of advice; now that you have explore and observed your new home, embrace the newness and confront culture with an open mind. Shape it as yours, remember this is your own personal experience, missing home is a natural feeling to experience, but you can make this new place feel like home, make new friends and have fun.
THERE IS A WISDOM IN TURNING AS OFTEN AS POSIBLE FROM THE FAMILIAR TO THE UNFAMILIAR: IT KEEPS IN MIND NIMBLE, IT KILLS PREJUDICE, AND IT FOSTERS HUMOR.
-George Santayana, “The Philosophy of Travel”