Adjusting to a New Culture

Adjusting to a new culture and way of life may take some time. It can be both exciting and challenging; you’re bound to experience both good and bad days during your summer at camp. During the difficult times, just remind yourself that cultural differences and new adventures are the reason we all love to travel; that is, to experience the unknown!

While everyone responds differently to a new culture, there are typically four stages most people experience as they adjust:

Stage One: Full of Excitement

Once you arrive at camp, you will probably feel excited. The camp atmosphere is special and packed with fun. During this stage, you’ll go through camp staff training, which typically lasts around one week. You will also get to know the other American and international staff members. These first days at camp are typically busy; along with excitement, you may also feel tired. Try to engage and stay involved to the best of your ability. This will help you forge lasting friendships and will ease your transition into life at camp.

Stage Two: The Newness Wears Off

As you adjust to daily life at camp, the sense of adventure may begin to wear off. You may find aspects of life to be different, strange, and even frustrating. The behavior of people around you might seem unusual or unpredictable. Camp activities will certainly be different and you might not understand all the traditions and activities you are required to participate in. You might begin to dislike the culture, feel anxious, or want to be alone. It is helpful to recognize when this is happening and know that this phase usually doesn’t last long. Do what you can to identify your feelings, but don’t put too much emphasis on them. Camp traditions, rituals, songs, skits, and activities are done in an effort to create a special environment for the campers, so just remember: camp is for the kids. You are there to provide a memorable experience for them, which will in turn give you a unique understanding of a different culture.

If you need help getting through this stage, try talking with other camp counselors; they are probably experiencing the same emotions as you. Bonding over that shared experience is a great way to make long-lasting friendships that will support you all summer.

Stage Three: Finding Your Routine

Once you develop a routine, you will feel more confident in dealing with your campers, fellow staff, and American culture – not to mention, the subculture of camp. For some international camp counselors, this might take place during staff training; for others, it might not come until the campers have arrived. Once the values and characteristics of people in the U.S. become more familiar to you, day-to-day life will become easier.

Stage Four: Making It Your Own

During the last stage of adjustment, you will begin to feel at home at camp. You might even be surprised by your enthusiasm and realize you like or even prefer certain American cultural traits and camp traditions. This is what cultural exchange is all about! Having fun, making friends, experiencing a new way of life, and overcoming any of the challenges that may arise along the way.

Remember: CIEE Is Always Here to Help!

It’s important to remember that you’re never alone at camp. You can always talk to other counselors or members of camp staff. You can also contact CIEE at any time to talk about the feelings you’re experiencing. We’re happy to help you or your Camp Exchange USA friends any time.