1. Introduction Moving abroad can be a beneficial

1. Introduction

 

Moving abroad can be a beneficial
experience, opening up the world to many amazing opportunities. It pushes
people out of their comfort zone, boosts confidence, and teaches many important
life lessons. Despite these benefits, there also comes some great challenges
with moving abroad. These challenges include, but are not limited to, feeling
lost, lonely, helpless, dependent, and sad. Culture Shock is defined as “the feeling of
disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an
unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes” (Oxford Dictionary
(ed.) 2018). Everyone experiences culture shock in a different way, and takes a
different amount of time to go through the predictable stages of culture shock (Vollmuth;
Bomhard 2009, pp 9-10).

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The four predictable stages of experiencing culture shock include the
honeymoon phase, the frustration stage, the adjustment stage, and the
acceptance stage (Vollmuth; Bomhard 2009, p 10). Once someone moves to a foreign
country, the process begins with a rush of positive emotions towards the new
culture. During the stage called the “honeymoon phase”, all of the
different aspects of the new culture seem intriguing and interesting. The
negative aspects of this foreign culture are barely noticed. Subsequently, this
excitement wears off and the person now enters the stage called
“frustration stage”. This is when the negative aspects of the culture
become more prominent and noticeable to the person. Feelings of homesick,
sadness, and depression may begin to kick in during this stage. Although this is
the hardest stage of culture shock to get through, things take a turn for the
better once someone succeeds it. Next comes the adjustment stage, where someone
begins to learn the ways of the new culture and adapt to their surroundings. The
amount of time it will take to get through this stage can vary, but it
ultimately results in advancing to the acceptance stage. In this last stage the
person feels at ease and accepts their surroundings and the culture they are
living in. They accept the fact that they do not need to understand everything
about the culture, and that it will take time to learn some things. Although
this can be a tough process, in the end it is beneficial and promotes the
person to learn many new things about their self (Medium Corporation 2016). International
students, who have moved abroad to study, can be considerably affected by
culture shock.

The aim of this paper will be to discuss the different stages of culture
shock that someone may experience, and address the most effective ways to
alleviate these symptoms.

2. Analysis

 

2.1. The 4 Stages of Culture Shock2.1.1. Honeymoon Phase

 

For most people, moving abroad is an adventurous and exciting opportunity
and will initially trigger positive feelings. During the “honeymoon phase”,
the person will feel captivated and amused by the new culture surrounding them.
Whether parts of the new culture are similar or different from the person’s
home culture, they are intrigued and fascinated by it. It is common for the
person living abroad to feel motivated and energized during this stage, and
will want to make the best use of their time. That includes learning the
language, visiting local tourist sites, and meeting new people. Due to this excitement
and positive attitude, the person develops a feeling of invincibility and does
not foresee any future challenges or issues with adjusting to the new culture
(Princeton (ed.) 2017). There is often a sense of infatuation being felt for
their new surroundings, the new people, language, and food. They will not feel
any regret to the decision of moving to the new culture, and usually feel proud
of their decision (The 4 Stages of Culture Shock 2016). Someone in this stage
has an open mindset to the new surroundings, culture, and way of living.
Although the honeymoon stage is enjoyable, it is unrealistic for someone to
stay in that stage forever. Eventually, as the honeymoon stage comes to an end,
the “frustration stage” of culture shock begins.

 

 

2.1.2. The Frustration Stage

 

Once someone has reached the end
of the honeymoon phase, they begin to see everything a little bit more clearly
for what it is. This is when they begin to notice the negative aspects of the
culture they previously felt so in love with. This stage is called the
frustration stage, and includes feelings of homesick, annoyance, and sadness.
During the frustration stage, the novelty of the new culture begins to wear
off. Someone who was previously focused on the interesting aspects of the new
culture, will suddenly shift their focus to the differences between the new
culture and their home culture. They often feel helpless and frustrated, and
the small differences between the two cultures begin to feel like major
hardships. It is at this point of culture shock that most people will set out
on a search for familiar activities, food, and people from their home culture (Princeton
(ed.) 2017). Within this stage people begin experiencing difficulties with the
language, friends, housing, and schoolwork. These difficulties lead to feelings
of frustration and resentment. Tasks that would be considered little and
effortless in the person’s home culture, become large challenges in the new
culture. After feeling so great during the honeymoon phase, the person has set
high unattainable standards and expectations. When these expectations are no
longer being met, they begin to feel let down and disappointed (Santoro Bellini
2005). They start to question why certain things are done differently, and miss
the customs of their home culture. The time that it will take for someone to
move out of the frustration stage will vary, depending on the person. It can be
exhausting to go through this stage, and takes a lot of strength and patience
to succeed.

 

2.1.3. The Adjustment Stage

 

After going through the frustration stage, things start to get better
overtime. This stage is called the adjustment stage, and is a gradual shift
from feeling frustrated to feeling at ease and accepting the norms of their new
environment. Suddenly, the person started to get used to the mindset and morals
of the new culture. They begin to have a better sense for what is considered
right or wrong, and can pick up on the small gestures from others. During this
stage, people will begin to diversify and make new friends. They regain their
sense of comfort, and sometimes start to prefer their new culture rather than
their previous culture. The response to the different aspects of the new
culture become more rational and less emotional, thus the person begins
thinking with an open mind and will learn about their new culture on a deeper
level. This understanding allows them to appreciate the different ways and
approaches to doing  things (Princeton
(ed.) 2017). The person starts to appreciate the new culture again, and will
begin identifying their self with the culture. They feel as though they are a
part of the new culture, and will regain the confidence they may have lost in
the previous stage. It is sometimes possible that feelings of pride for the new
culture may result in seeing your home culture in a negative view.

 

2.1.4. The Acceptance Stage

 

After battling through these challenges of culture shock, the person
will eventually reach the last stage of culture shock. This stage is called the
acceptance stage, where the person identifies with the new culture and thinks
of it as their home (Vollmuth; Bomhard 2009, p 10). This new mindset and
identification promotes the person to begin integrating more into the new
society. Once they have started integrating into the society, they no longer
feel that they are being hindered by the new culture. They now feel as though
they can perform their best and reach their true potential (Mitchell 2017).
When someone reaches this phase, the aspects of the new culture begin to feel
normal to them and they grow accustomed to their new way of living. They don’t
feel as though they completely understand everything about the new culture, but
they accept that fact and feel at peace learning new things about the culture
gradually.

 

 

2.2. How Culture Shock Effects International Students

 

These stages of culture shock can have a huge affect on international
students, especially since they are often making the move to the new culture
completely alone, without family members or coworkers. The international
students will not only have the stress of school weighing on them, but as well
the stress of living in a new culture. For international students to succeed in
their lives and studies, it is important to be educated about culture shock. They
should know that culture shock is completely normal, and that they are not the
only ones facing this problem. Even though it can be emotionally exhausting, it
will pass and get better with time. They will learn to cope with the stress and
frustration that comes along with living in a foreign culture, and eventually
begin to enjoy living in their new home. Some suggestions to help international
students get through culture shock, is to attend new comer’s and international
groups in the new city they are living in. These cultural groups can inform
international student on how to do things such as finding a doctor, using the
public transportation, finding a hairdresser, and language classes (Vollmuth;
Bomhard 2009, p 10). Some other ways to cope with culture shock include
learning more about the culture you are living in, learning the language, and
keeping an open mind. Once someone first arrives in a new culture, it is
important to establish a daily routine. Having a sense of control and balance
in their life will help with the feeling of disorientation. International
students should try to build a new network of friends, to cope with the
feelings of loneliness. Keeping busy and getting involved in activities is
another helpful way for international students to battle culture shock, as it
promotes living in the moment and gives them less time to spend thinking about
what they are missing at home. Someone battling with culture shock should make
sure to get enough sunlight, exercise, and try to keep a journal. These three
things will help the international students to relax and reflect on their
journey. Another helpful tip for international students is to share their
experiences with others, and create a support network for themselves.
International students should try their best to maintain a positive attitude
throughout this process, even when things get tough. Ultimately, they are the
ones who control their experience in the culture abroad (Vollmuth; Bomhard
2009, p 10).

2.3. The Importance of Culture Shock

 

Even though culture shock may feel negative in the moment, it is an
important part of adjusting to a new culture. Learning something new, such as
the aspects of a different culture, is best taught through experience. Leaving
your comfort zone is usually an unpleasant experience, but in the end you grow
from it. When someone travels to a foreign country, all of their preexisting
expectations and beliefs about society and human life become questionable. Many
lessons can be learned from visiting foreign cultures, and the experience will
ultimately have a positive effect on your life. When people take the time to
learn about the aspects of different cultures, they are able to have compassion
for the people living within that culture. Many of the global issues we face
today, such as racism, war and poverty, could be fixed if more people had an
understanding and compassion for the other cultures. Someone can spend their
entire life in a specific culture that teaches them what is right and what is
wrong, and then fly to the other side of the world one day to discover that
another culture teaches the complete opposite. Therefore the foreigner’s eyes
will be opened and they will gain a new perspective on the values and beliefs
of their own culture. This is a beneficial experience, as it can help someone
discover what their own beliefs are and what they truly value in life. 

3. Conclusion

 

For anyone moving to an unfamiliar, new culture, they are guaranteed to
face some sort of culture shock at some point of their adjustment into their
new life. Whether the person is studying or working  in the new culture, culture shock is normal
to face. It can be emotionally draining and frustrating, but it is possible to
work through the four stages and succeed in your new environment. As previously
mentioned, culture shock involves four stages. The honeymoon phase, where
someone feels infatuated with the new culture. During this stage, almost
everything about the new culture is perceived as intriguing and exciting.
Although this stage is thrilling and enjoyable, it will come to an end
eventually. Once the honeymoon phase has passed, the person will begin seeing
the negative aspects of the new culture. The new culture no longer amazes the
person and does not live up to their previously set high standards. This phase
is called the frustration stage, as they begin to feel irritated and reject
aspects of the new culture. This phase is the most emotionally exhausting, and
can be hard to get through. But once this stage is past, the adjustment stage
begins. During the adjustment stage, the person will have less of an emotional
reaction to different aspects of the new culture. Thus, they slowly begin to
understand and see the new culture better from a clear perspective. At this
point, they are starting to feel more integrated into the culture and regain
interest in learning about the culture, people, and language. Going through
this stage then results in the last stage of culture shock, the acceptance
stage. The person no longer feels as though they are a foreigner, and feel as
though they are a part of the new society. They now think of the new culture as
home, and have learned to accept and adjust to the new ways of living. Even though
they may not feel like they understand all aspects of the culture, they have
accepted how things are. Once they have really accepted and became accustomed
to their new culture, they sometimes begin seeing the faults in their previous
home culture. Even though these stages of culture shock are extremely
challenging, it is important to be educated about the subject and to understand
that it is completely normal to suffer from culture shock. For international
students dealing with culture shock, it is important to keep busy and find
support groups to help cope with the stress of school and culture shock. Making
an effort to learn about the culture, people, and the language can help
international students though the process of culture shock. Above everything,
keeping a positive outlook on the situation will help reduce the symptoms of
culture shock and improve the international student’s experience. All of the
benefits gained from moving to a foreign culture will far outweigh the negative
symptoms of culture shock. Going through the painful experience of culture
shock teaches someone their true values in life, and helps them see the world
from a new perspective.   

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