Cultural Adaptation - What to expect
You'll recall that back in the section on Cross-cultural
Living, we talked about the stages of culture shock you may expect
as you adapt to your new temporary home.
This graph below should refresh your memory or you
can follow the link above or use the sidebar menu to revisit that module.
Tips for Cultural Adaptation
Activity: Graph Your Cultural Adaptation
One of the best ways to be aware of your cultural
adaptation process is to plot a graph your emotional well-being over time,
similar to the example here. Decide on what time scale you'd like to use
(daily, every other day, weekly) and then ask yourself "How am I
feeling on a scale of 1-10?" Plot that on your graph and keep track
of your stages of adaptation. Sometimes just knowing your ups and downs
are normal can help you cope.
During the Honeymoon Phase
- Enjoy the feeling that you are really in a different culture. Record
your thoughts in your journal; you will want to read them later at a
time when you may not be quite so enchanted with your host culture.
- Although everything about your new location may seem interesting (even
the television commercials) remember you also need some rest and down
time to recover from your trip and settle in properly.
- Try not to look too much like a lost tourist; this will attract unwanted
attention from con artists and thieves.
- Don't forget to call home and let people know you've arrived safely.
Culture Shock and Homesickness
- Remember that homesickness and feeling culture shock are a normal
part of the adaptation process. Recognize that this is what's happening
and don't be too hard on yourself.
- Find some small children to make friends with (baby-sit, volunteer
somewhere). A four-year-old can really make you feel valued even if
they've only known you a day or so.
- Keep a journal, it can really show you how you're doing if you read
what you wrote when you first arrived and compare it to the present.
- Phone home, e-mail and talk to people who know you.
- Get involved. Join a club, find a part-time job, volunteer.
- Escape a bit. Read a book, draw, play or listen to music.
Dealing with Severe Homesickness - Get Me Outta Here!
I Want to go Home.
This usually happens when you first arrive or when you've experienced
a traumatic event (robbery, violent crime etc.). Use the suggestions above
- If you've just arrived, give yourself a little more time. See
how things are when classes start. You may meet people and find more
to do. Many international students arrive before the beginning of a
term and they get very depressed because no one is around and facilities
are not open. Things can change totally once the students come back
and classes start.
- It's probably been a long trip, you haven't had much sleep and you
probably haven't eaten properly. The lack of sleep and time change
affects your mood and thinking. It makes everything seem that much
more foreign and it makes you miss home even more. This is normal. Most
people feel much more positive about things once they've had a good
sleep and at least a week to adjust to the time change. Jet lag can
last a long time. It makes you wake up in the middle of the night and
of course everything seems more lonely in the middle of the night.
- Don't put too much pressure on yourself. You won't be a failure
if you do come home - you'll have learned a lot about life and you will
have made the right decision for you.
If you do come back just remember that you don't have to justify yourself
to anyone. Just say "things didn't work out for me there" or
"it wasn't the right thing for me right now" Also remember,
that this doesn't mean you will never travel again. It may not be a great
experience right now but in a few years you might be totally ready to
take off somewhere for an adventure. You are not a failure because at
least you tried. Think of all the people who have never left home because
they are too scared. You have managed to survive the long plane ride and
all the airport confusion, find your place to live and settle in -- more
than many people every dream they could do.
Just settled in and... It's time to go
It often seems that you've only just arrived and settled
in and then, you need to start planning for your return home. Remember
all the ups and downs you experienced before yo left home? It will be
very much like that again. Be prepared. Be organized and plan ahead, this
can greatly reduce your stress level.
Take care of logistics well in advance.
- Book your return flight so you don't find all the seats are full
on the days you need to fly.
- Pay your bills and any other debts before you leave
- get copies of your course outlines, evaluations or transcripts, you
may need them when you get home.
- Leave enough time to say good bye to people properly. You'll regret
it later if you don't spend some quality time with all the important
people who made your stay fun and successful.
- Say thank you. People appreciate it especially when you remember someone
who helped you out several months ago when you first arrived.
- Have 'business' cards made up with your home and e-mail addresses,
this will save you having to write them out so many times.
For tips on dealing with Re-entry Shock upon your return home
go to the section When you Return.
Looking After Academics While You're Away
There are a few details you should take care of while
you're away. This will ensure that everything will be in place when you
arrive home to start your next term.
- Have you obtained a copy of all your course outlines? Remember these
must include the type and weight of course evaluations, number of lecture
and seminar/lab hours, reading lists etc.?
- By what date do you need to register for your next semester courses?
- When do you need to pay your enrollment deposit?
- By what date do you need to apply for student loans?
- Will you be living in on-campus residence next year? Ensure that you
apply for housing by the deadline.
- When should you order an official transcript from your host institute
for personal use?
- How do you ensure that you have paid all your financial obligations
before leaving your host institute