Cultural Adjustment

Culture shock is a period of ups and downs typically experienced when moving to a new culture. The process is different for each individual and can vary in onset, length, sequence, and severity. It helps to be familiar with the stages as it can ease the process. Staying positive and open to new all the new experiences that Suffolk has to offer can also help lessen the effects.

Typical symptoms of culture shock may include physical and emotional changes such as:

  • Homesickness
  • Feeling like a child
  • Disliking the new culture
  • Stress
  • Frequent crying, or feeling like crying
  • Changes in appetite or energy levels
  • Sleeplessness
  • Lasting feeling of sadness
  • Headaches or stomachaches

Adjusting to Life in the U.S.

Over time the feelings and symptoms will dissipate, but there are a number of tips and tricks for hastening the adjustment process. Be proactive in getting to know your new environment. Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new whenever you have the opportunity. Try to keep an open mind and a healthy sense of adventure. If you find yourself in a low place where you are having difficulty coping, or you are experiencing severe symptoms of culture shock, seek counseling immediately. In U.S. culture where individuals often live apart from the social support network of family and friends, it is normal to seek counseling in times of emotional distress. There are many caring, qualified professionals such as social workers (M.S.W.), psychologists (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) or psychiatrists (M.S. in psychiatry) who can listen and provide the support you need to help you through a period of difficulty.

Learn about your environment through exploration, and what is going on beyond campus-life. Take a walk in the park, try a local restaurant, or go to the movies.

To thrive in a new culture and learn from it, it is important to be open to new experiences, try new things, and be curious about the way things are done. If you are confused by something, ask how it is done in the U.S. Most people will be happy to teach you about their country and customs.

Don't live in isolation from others. One suggestion is to invite someone in your class to have coffee. By taking an interest in other people, you shift the focus from yourself to the outside world. Suffolk has hundreds of clubs and organizations you can join to meet new people and broaden your horizons. Join one (or two)!

There is comfort in the familiar. Eat and sleep normal hours, and have regular mealtimes. Join a sports club, or a discussion group. Aim to do at least one activity you look forward to on a regular basis at the same time each week.

A healthy body promotes a healthy mind and is a great way to relieve stress.

The ISSO staff is here to help answer your questions and concerns. This is your office.

Suffolk's Home Away From Home program matches new international students with upper class students. If you are interested in having being paired with an upper class student, join the Home Away From Home program today. 

Being able to communicate effectively and understand a new language is key in feeling comfortable for non-native speakers. For those looking English language support, Suffolk provides many rigorous Developmental English Programs for students to take advantage of.