If you have concerns about your adjustment to life in the U.S. and you would like support please contact your Local Coordinator or the CIEE Support Department in Portland, Maine at 1-800-448-9944.
Culture shock is what happens when your culture is challenged by another's way of thinking or doing something. It is part of the process of cultural adaption. Culture shock naturally affects you when leaving a familiar environment to go to live in a new country.
Culture shock is often described as a U shaped curve and consists of several different stages. The first stage is called the honeymoon period. This is the time when you still find everything to be new and exciting.
As time passes the novelty of the experience begins to wear off, and many cultural differences start to show. These differences often appear when they are least expected. This is the frustration stage.
From frustration, students gradually move to the next stage, doldrums, in which you start to evaluate the other culture. After examining your host culture, it is a good idea to decide what to change, what to keep, and what to throw out altogether. It takes time to get through the frustrations and doldrums, but the rewards are great!
The final stage is the process of adaption. It is important to note that cultural adaption does not follow any clear timeline. The different stages may last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. The stages may overlap or repeat themselves. The process of learning and adapting to a new culture continues from the day that the student arrives until the program ends.
Tips for managing culture shock
Communication is the key when dealing with culture shock. It can therefore be very helpful to sit down with your Local Coordinator, someone from your host family or school, or call your Support Coordinator. Explain that you are struggling with issues or cultural norms here in the U.S. You might be surprised to find that you get great advice!
Culture shock happens to everyone! Not only will you likely experience it, but your host family might as well, especially if you are the first international student they have ever hosted.
Be patient with those around you and be sure to communicate – everything will fall into place if make an effort!