International Student Perspectives Video

International Student Perspectives

Culture Shock

  • Culture shock is a normal part of adjusting to a new culture. 
  • You will find similarities and differences in the values, expectations, and traditions in the U.S. compared to what you are used to in your home culture.
  • Adjusting to American university culture is easy for some people, while others may struggle to feel comfortable. Culture shock can make you feel confused, worried, and disoriented.

Common reactions to culture shock can include:

    • extreme homesickness
    • avoiding social situations
    • physical complaints and sleep difficulties
    • difficulty with coursework and inability to concentrate
    • becoming angry over minor irritations
    • significant nervousness or exhaustion

Generalizations of U.S. Culture

We generalize about cultures as a way to better understand them. It is important to remember that generalizations do not apply to everyone or in every situation. 

Here are a few generalizations about U.S. Culture to help you adjust.

    • Time - You are expected to schedule an appointment and to be on time when meeting with teachers, advisors, professionals and friends. Also, it is considered polite to call ahead if you are going to be late or if you are going to miss an appointment.
    • Communication - Being assertive and direct is a common characteristic of U.S. Americans. Most U.S. Americans express their feelings and opinions in a direct way. For example, saying "no" is not considered rude because sharing your honest opinion is valued. 
    • Individualism - In the United States, people place a high value on the individual rather than the group or the family. U.S. Americans value self-reliance and independence and usually expect to take care of their problems by themselves instead of depending on a group or family to help them.
    • Informality - Many visitors to the United States notice how informal U.S. Americans are. Although U.S. Americans value and respect their teachers, they may call them by their given names and speak to them in a casual, informal manner.
    • Friendship - International students in the United States are often surprised at how friendly U.S. Americans are but how difficult it is to become a close friend with a U.S. American. For example, "How are you?" is used as a greeting, but most U.S. Americans do not expect a detailed answer to the question.

What to keep in mind as you adjust:

    • Culture is relative As an international student, you will be exposed to many new customs, habits and ideas. Try to avoid labeling them as "good" or "bad" according to the culture you are from. Remember that there may be parts of a culture you dislike or disapprove of, but these are part of a broader social system, and therefore make more sense inside that system.
    • Be open-minded and curious
    • Use your observation skills
    • Ask questions
    • It's ok to experience anxiety
    • Give yourself (and others) permission to make mistakes
    • Take care of your physical health
    • Find a cultural ally and seek out support from other international students
    • Be patient - don't try to understand everything immediately

Cultural adjustment takes time. Be patient with yourself as you get to know your new environment. Remember, UNT is here to help!