International students come across a variety of experiences but there is one single phase that most international students go through; that is called the Cultural Shock. Culture shock is defined in the relative scientific literature as a transitional experience encountered by individuals because they find themselves unable to use known and familiar cultural references to understand aspects of their identity in a new culture.
As an ACU International student from Iran, I had my fare share of difficulties and let’s hope this article helps future international students addressing this issue better.
People usually experience this phenomenon in different phases. The first one is called the “Honeymoon phase” in which everything around you looks extremely exciting and at all times you are fascinated with the alien culture. I wrote my first article while I was experiencing this phase and believe me ACU is one of the best places you want to spend your psychological honeymoon. Try to absorb as much energy as possible because you may be drifting for a little while after that. A good tip is not to start work right after you arrive in Australia and instead try to go out see the country, go to some movies and attend the first gatherings ACU will recommend you in order to make new friends. You can browse this blog or visit the ACU Students Association page for more information about activities ACU offers.
The honeymoon phase is likely to fade away at some staged and may be replaced by a series of discomforting experiences. Differences between your own culture and the new world may start to show themselves and make life in Australia more difficult. For me it was mainly about finding good food to eat and the problems of engaging in relationships with friends. Since this phase is called the Negotiation phase, yet again try to attend university events like the sport games and pizza nights to meet new people and try spending your time in library and common rooms to find new friends who have something in common with you.
Remember that finding a small group of people from your own country and being in their company once or twice a week will help you pass the difficult times much easier.
If you are having difficulties, I highly recommend that you visit the office of student success and booking an appointment with one of our counselors may also assist you in overcoming difficult times. They are here to help you! Find more information on the office of student success website.
After this comes the Adjustment phase in which you start making routines for yourself and getting the hang of how things are done in Australia. It is a good idea to try to practice your favourite sport and join a team or start going to a book club. The transition between the last two stages for me was so obvious that I could not help but to mention how more efficient I became in my day life.
The last stage is called Mastery. Not only you know more about how things are done here in Australia but also you have adapted to some of the local culture as of your own. Your eating habits have changed even you tend to eat/drink things regularly that you did not even know they existed before. You are enjoying the company of real friends and you will miss Australia if you are going back home or to be accurate where used to be your home. Also, bear in mind that some students also experience a reverse culture shock when coming back to their home country!
There is one important point in this stage and it is we enter a bicultural stage in which we behold our own values and habits to some extend, while we embrace the good new ideas of the new culture. And that is the stage I am now at 😉
Make sure you visit the following article on how to overcome another issue experienced by international students: Homeskickness, 10 tips for overcoming Homesickness!
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