Culture shock can be more than a feeling of homesickness, it can lead to symptoms such as nausea, frustration, extreme tiredness and confusion.
It is very typical for international students to experience culture shock, so to help you in your preparations to study abroad, read our top 10 tips for dealing with culture shock and homesickness.
1. Improve your language skills
The language barrier is often the main frustration when moving to a new country. Communicating verbally with natives is not the only hurdle as signage and literature can also be highly confusing, especially if you are moving to a country that reads from left to right and you are more familiar reading from right to left. Your course may also contain lots of terminology that you may not be familiar with, or may translate differently from your native language.
Make life easier for yourself by getting a head start on building your language skills. Improve your language skills by applying some of the tips below:
- Read course text books published in the language of your destination country. This will help you become familiar with the typography and style of language used.
- Listen to podcasts or read articles that are related to your course.
- Try using a digital translator.
2. Get Social
Make full use of social networks like Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. Not only can you connect with new friends and find out more about them but you can also stay in touch with friends and family. Keeping up to date with family and friend’s updates will help you to feel connected with home.
Universities also have Facebook and Twitter accounts which allows you to interact with staff and lecturers and keep up to date with events on campus. Be sure to follow the student union’s Facebook or Twitter accounts so you do not miss opportunities to socialize with fellow students.
3. Get a webcam and install Skype
Being able to speak face to face with your family and friends back home will help to alleviate homesickness. If your laptop or computer doesn’t come with a webcam be sure to buy one and set it up. Install Skype or start a Google hangout and you can video call your friends and family at home for free!
4. Learn to take care of yourself
If you previously lived with your family you may not be used to living on your own and having to perform all the duties that are required, such as washing, cooking and cleaning. You can prepare for this by practicing before you move abroad for your studies. Try doing some of the following activities to ensure you can take care of yourself:
- Learn to cook. Try learning some of your favorite local dishes so you can cook them and be instantly reminded of home. If you find you can manage, take a few of your favorite recipes from home with you.
- Wash your own clothes.
- Perform some general cleaning duties.
The more prepared you are to take care of yourself in your new home the less lonely and isolated you will feel.
5. Research what activities will be available
Research what facilities will be available in the area where you will be living. Do you love movies? Investigate the local cinema online, you could even view it using Google Street View to see what it looks like.
If you are into sports check out the local sport facilities. Make sure you still have access to activities that you enjoyed back at home.
6. Find out if anyone in your school or college is also moving to the same country
You should find out if any of your fellow classmates are also planning to study abroad in the same country. It would be a great opportunity to make a new friend and plan to keep in touch with each other in your new country of residence. Along with video calls with your family and friends back home, having a friend from your home country whom you can visit will definitely help keep homesickness at bay.
7. Get involved. Join university groups and clubs.
Universities have many clubs and societies that you can join. These are great places to take up an activity or hobby that you have always wanted to, or to continue with one you left back home. Not only that, but here you can also meet a new set of friends. Because groups and societies are open to every student at the university, you will encounter people from other courses run by the university that you would not normally have the opportunity to meet.
Meeting new friends, socializing, and taking part in new activities and hobbies should help to keep you too busy to feel lonely and homesick.
8. Install a currency converter app on your phone.
Budgeting and knowing how much you are paying for goods and services when you are not familiar with the currency can be complicated. Make your life easier by installing a currency converter app on your smart phone to ensure you are keeping within your budget.
9. Need help and advice getting around? Visit the international office.
Along with the language barrier, and currency differences (see point 8), public transport can be extremely confusing and stressful in an unfamiliar country. Do not worry about this beforehand, the university’s international office will be able to help and will also be able to point you in the right direction for bus and train timetables. The international office will be able to assist with any questions or queries you have so make sure you go and pay them a visit.
10. Be prepared for a different climate.
Possibly one of the least considered aspects of studying abroad is the change in climate from your own country. Depending on your destination country you may be soon experiencing a completely different climate to what you are used to. Make sure you research the weather and climate so you are prepared for it and it will not be a huge shock to the system. You may need to adjust your wardrobe to feel comfortable in your new surroundings.