The International Student Journey
- The honeymoon stage: At the beginning, everything seems exciting and new, so you may focus on the positive aspects of the new environment and downplay the negative.
- The culture shock stage: With time, feelings of frustration, sadness, anxiety, and homesickness may manifest. The challenges (like learning a new language, values and customs) take center stage.
- The recovery stage: As you adjust and better understand the new culture, you develop methods to manage and overcome issues. Gradually, your stress will lessen and you will start feeling more at ease.
- The acceptance stage: Generally, after wrestling with the stages above, you reach acceptance. It doesn’t mean that one culture is superior, but you’ve explored the similarities and differences and have found ways to adapt to your new world and make it feel like home.
Note that this cycle may also be repeated when you go back to your home country and re-adjust to life there.
There are some common challenges and difficulties that students in a new culture may experience. These are normal feelings, and you are definitely not alone if you experience issues with:
- Homesickness. You may experience feelings of loss or loneliness due to reduced contact with family and friends, as well as missing familiar places, foods, climate, etc.
- Different values. Your home country may have very different values from those of the United States, including political, moral, social or educational beliefs.
- Social skills. Making friends can be hard when you have disparate cultural backgrounds. There may be different norms or common interactions that are confusing, including varying dating customs or expectations.
- Finances. Adjusting to using new currency can be challenging, as can budgeting for unfamiliar expenses. Add to this the stress of not being able to work off-campus as you would in your home country, and you may require more help with finances than you're used to.
- Language. Even though you passed the TOEFL to get here, college-level classes in your non-native language can be hard!
- Class expectations. Academic requirements and norms in the United States may be quite different from your home country. This may cause confusion as you navigate your new role and adjust to varying expectations.
- New subjects. You’re required to take General Education classes from a wide variety of subjects that may have not have been required in your home country.
Realize that what you’re going through is normal. Experiencing a wide range emotions as you go through the different stages is totally normal. If you’re having a hard time, realize that it is temporary, and seek help.
Stay in touch. Maintain relationships with friends and family from home. Follow local or national news. Have familiar things around you that have meaning to you, like photographs or mementos. Find ways to make or eat foods you enjoy.
Take care of yourself. College can be a stressful time. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself physically, spiritually, and emotionally, and getting plenty of rest. Seek opportunities to make new friends, as well as communicating with friends from home. Don't be afraid to take advantage of campus counseling resources.
Get involved. Get involved with activities happening on and off campus. Go to your ward activities. Join a local sports league. Attend the weekly devotional. Volunteer at a local nonprofit. Check the campus calendar for events.
Remember why you came here. You made a big decision to come to the United States and pursue an education. There were likely obstacles along the way, and you persevered. You may have received some sort of spiritual confirmation or guidance about why you should be here. When you're struggling, it is helpful to remember that confirmation and your “why.”
The college resources below can help you get acclimated at Ensign College:
These outside resources* may also provide tips and tools for making the most of your college experience:
- Patrick, H. (2016). The International Student’s Guide to Studying Abroad in the United States. Eugene, OR: Wayzgoose.
*Please note that selecting any of these links will redirect you away from Ensign College's website. Because websites are constantly changing, Ensign College does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of this information.