Discover Your Island

Coping with Cultural Shock

You just move into a new environment and there are a lot of things you don’t know. This uncertainty may create a lot of anxiety, sadness, loneliness, shock, depression, or even real pain for you that can become obstacles to your personal and academic success. However, learning to recognize these emotions and work through these obstacles can help you build new perspectives, better understand yourself, and redefine your life objectives. Here are “Eleven Principles to Combat Culture Shock” as suggested by Dr. Carmen Guanipa, Department of Counseling and School Psychology, San Diego State University (1998):
  1. Recognize the sorrow of leaving your old country. Allow yourself to feel sad about the things that you have left behind: your family, your friends, etc.
  2. Accept the new country. Find ways to live with the things that don't satisfy you 100%. If you encounter an unfavorable environment, don't put yourself in that position again. Learn to be constructive.
  3. Focus your power on getting through the transition. Establish simple goals and evaluate your progress.
  4. Don't forget the good things you already have! Remember, there are always resources that you can use or seek help.
  5. Learn to include a regular form of physical activity in your routine. This will help combat the sadness and loneliness in a constructive manner. Exercise, swim, take an aerobics class, etc.
  6. Relaxation and meditation are proven positive for people who are passing through periods of stress.
  7. Maintain contact with your ethnic group. This will give you a feeling of belonging and you will reduce your feelings of loneliness and alienation
  8. Maintain contact with the new culture. Learn the language. Volunteer in community activities that allow you to practice the language that you are learning. This will help you feel less stress about language and useful at the same time.
  9. Develop a hobby.
  10. Maintain confidence in yourself. Follow your ambitions and continue your plans for the future. If you feel stressed, look for help.
  11. Be patient, the act of immigrating is a process of adaptation to new situations. It is going to take time. Be easy on yourself.