When you leave your home culture, you separate yourself from the people and circumstances that have defined your role in society. You enter into a world in which you are expected to adjust to the way things are done here- and there may be some significant differences from how you have done things back home. It is possible that you may experience a loss of some of your identity. The impact of this change can be disorienting. It is called "culture shock." Culture shock can be felt in a number of ways.
You do not need to suffer from every item on the list in order to experience culture shock. Only a few of the items may apply to you -- maybe only a couple of them.
Being in college far away from home can create stresses of its own and events that may be happening at home can be even tougher because you cannot be with friends and family to give and receive support.
If you are dealing with culture shock and college adjustment issues, help is available.
Independence is a strong American value. The culture here is focused on the individual rather than the group, which includes the family. Self-reliance and self-expression are usually seen as more important than harmonious relationships. This focus on the individual, however, can lead to isolation that is seen as normal here. Independent effort and achievement are valued. Students are expected to speak up and contribute to discussions, ask questions if they do not understand, and visit the professor or teaching assistant during office hours for extra help. They’re expected to take the initiative. One way that American students take the initiative is to seek help when they are feeling overwhelmed. While it is more common in other cultures to seek help from family and to not talk to people outside the family about problems or issues you might be facing- it is acceptable to do so here. Often, there is concern that if you talk to someone outside the family, that person might tell other people about what you said which would bring shame to the family. At Counseling Services we are not allowed to talk about what students tell us to anyone whether it’s your parents, your professors, or anyone at the University unless you give us written permission to do so.
Content courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Counseling Center
Getting used to a new culture can be challenging. Counseling Services provides a wide range of assistance to all students. No concern is too small or too large for us to help you. If we can’t be of service, we will help you find the right place for the information or assistance you need.
Some of the services we provide include:
You can also call and ask to speak to a counselor if you are unsure about whether you should come in for an appointment or not. If you would like more assistance or counseling, please contact Counseling Services at 715-425-3884.
Global Connections 715-425-4891
Mayo Clinic: Adjustment Disorders
Southern Wesleyan University: College adjustment Issues
International Student: Study in the USA: Resources for international students
Virtual Pamphlet Collection (topics compiled from top college counseling centers)
Page reviewed August 2012 by Mark Huttemier, MA, LPC. Personal Counselor in Student Health and Counseling at University of Wisconsin – River Falls