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How to Deal with Culture Shock: Tips for International Students

When you study at university for the first time it can be difficult getting your head around  where to be and when, finding time to attend classes, study and do assignments. But when you’re new to both university and new to a country or a city, those difficulties can be quadrupled. This is particularly the case when you come from a culture that is markedly different to the one in which you newly find yourself. Different language, different customs, different climate, different cultural values and norms, different everything!

If you’re struggling with the sheer vastness of the differences between your own culture or feeling frustrated, isolated or anxious, you might be experiencing culture shock.  You may also feel lonely, miss your friends and family and may even start to regret your decision to come study at CDU. All these feelings are very normal, and understandable. The important thing is to accept them rather than feel bad about them and develop strategies for managing them. Here are some things you can do to manage culture shock.

Be positive and learn
Remember that your time at university is meant to be a learning one, so do take every opportunity you can to learn from all your experiences, not just your formally structured classes. Do also take the time to look at your own expectations and preconceived stereotypes. Remember that your time at university is finite and will end, so try and focus on what you can gain from the time rather than focus on its constraints.

Stay Connected
Make sure you work to both maintain your existing connections and forge new ones. Endeavour to stay in touch with friends and family at home, but also work to make new friends and contacts. If you’re staying at International House Darwin, make sure you join in the range of social events on offer. You can also sign up to join one of the many clubs and societies run by the CDU Students Association, and get to know the people you learn with – your fellow students.

Find familiarity
Keep doing the things you would do at home for fun or relaxation. Try and engage in activities that you are familiar with and good at and add that to your daily or weekly routine. This could be as simple as going for a walk at sunset, playing a sport your love, or just your morning wake up ritual.

Give yourself time
Don’t expect that you will adjust instantly to your new environment. Give yourself time to get familiar with your environment and to adapt to it. This will take as long as it takes, so don’t be hard on yourself if you’re not settling in as soon as you would like.

Absorb your surroundings
Try and spend as much time as you can just trying to get to know your immediate area and expand outwards bit by bit. Get to know your campus first, then get to know your suburb and local shopping centre, get to know where local transport is. Set yourself small achievable goals and celebrate your accomplishments. Also try and absorb the local language and culture as much as possible. Read the local paper, watch or listen to the local news on TV or radio and try to speak English as much as you can.

Look after yourself
Take care of yourself. Find balance, work to minimise stress {link}and make sure you eat properly and exercise regularly. This will help keep you in top shape to be able to manage any physical or mental challenges your new environment throws at you. Maintain a sense of humour and practice kindness and compassion for yourself and others.

Don’t be Afraid to ask for help
CDU has plenty of services and resources to help international students.  Darwin, being a multicultural city, also has a many cultural groups you can reach out to. If you’re not sure where something is or what is expected of you, ask. Ask your lecturer, your Resident Leader, Student Central or your fellow students who are all very happy to help.

 Above all , make the most of your time here at CDU. Make it a time to create fond memories and great learning experiences.


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