Fall semester is on the door (but maybe you read this blog in different time, that’s ok) and many international students all over the world might just started packing to study abroad. I remembered when the first time I experienced new culture in Brighton, UK in 2006, it was amazing moment to me. At that time I had to explore every single language communications, life style, cultural norms, and people. Though, studying abroad is a big challenge for international students. However, many international students confront culture shock in various obstacles. For instance, language, educational system background, and daily life programs are some of the factors that sometimes harden the homogeneous process of adjustment to a new culture. These obstacles may prevent international students from easily adjusting to a new culture. In this article, I would like to investigate these factors and how they affect international students’ success in college.
To begin with, I shall give a definition of a culture shock to broaden the understanding of this term. The interpretation of culture shock depends on how we interact with different cultures. In other words, ”Culture shock is precipitated by the anxiety that results from losing all familiar signs and symbols of social intercourse” (L. Oberg, 2001). Therefore, I emphasize that language is the most crucial factor that affects students’ adjustment to new culture. However, this anxiety (being in a new culture) might take a few days or even months to replace missing culture or social interaction. It is undeniable that most human communication is done through languages, yet, among the vast types of languages, are our culture norms of living which has coined together from the day of birth. Since language is decoded with culture in one’s society, the new shift to practice second language has its obstacle for international students. On the one hand, some students find it very easy to adjust to a new language, in all sorts of communications. On the other hand, some students find it difficult to start communicating using a new language. For instance, buying bus ticket, sending and/or replying to both mails and emails, activating bank account, paying electricity bills, using internet and mobiles (daily life communication) are some of the new obstacles that might challenge international students. In these situations, the practice of the second language becomes bigger and wider. Additionally, the most difficult task for international students is to communicate effectively in the new communities. Thus, adjusting to a new culture international students must encourage themselves to participate continuously in any new social situation. In this way, language barriers become lower and students can achieve greater confidence soon. Since the language is the actual tool of interaction, though international students have to be able to read newspapers, listen to news, and practice building conversations with different people and especially, native speakers.
The second factor is getting familiar with the educational system in a new country (not just educational but cultural). Of course, studying abroad is a big challenge, but most international students can be successful at their college life. In other words, if you complete all your assignments on time, go to sleep early; follow up with your teacher; invest more time reading your materials; and mange your study time; you will reach a higher level of your class. Some international students mismanage their studying program or do not follow the course syllabus, and that affect their grades. Perhaps, for those graduate students the mission is more challenging because they have lots of papers due in one month and they might start losing their conscious (e.g. What am I going to do and how?). All these assignments will be a piece of cake if you print out a table of your assignments and each contains a time section, references, task due date and any information you need to collect. To some extent, educational background assists students in comparing their education with the new system. I assumed that this factor will enhance students’ intellectual and academic capacity to foster new life. Furthermore, students must be conscious about their course assignments and follow up the syllabus of the courses.
Nothing can replace your country’s routines or food. But, usually people can adjust to any new environment except for some minor conditions. The third factor of cultural adjustment is a students’ life program at the host country. Most students want to apply their home program in the new culture, which is nice to do, but being part of this new community requires real shift and exploration of cultural norms. It is more likely that international students observe the new places around them from time to time to see how people go shopping, camp out, participate in sport activities or doing any daily routines. Coping with new life routine necessitates more engagement in social activities as well. For instance, what most festivals does the new culture have? Where do people usually gather together; how do they greet each other, and so on. The real interaction with the social life in the new country develops students’ capability to interact effectively. I assume that this factor can be the fast track to getting rid of culture fear and being part of the new society successfully. Also, international students must not choose to stay at home most of the time and being ignored. He/she has to explore their surroundings for instance, see some historical landmarks. It will make it more enjoyable to have a map of the city and point to the most famous places you could visit. Furthermore, not to forget that international students need to join their university’s/college’s trips and social hub or even open day.
In conclusion, adjustment to a new culture is a hard process for international students, but active language interaction, understanding the educational system and engagement in daily life programs are the best factors to be socially successful. In this article I have discussed these factors as the most difficult obstacles for international students and how they cope with them effectively. The above mentioned factors are most likely to be problematic for students in supporting their new life effectively and releasing anxiety due to culture shock. This article has been written after several years of cultural shock experiences in different countries (UK, Australia, Spain, and U.S.) to assist you follow the easiest path of language development.