Adjusting to a New Culture for School


You have made the choice to accept admission to a college or university in the U.S.  You may be excited, anxious and curious what it will be like to be among mostly American students in and out of the classroom. 

These are very common feelings, and you can prepare by reading books such as, Excuse Me, Can You Repeat That? (available online from various worldwide booksellers) or talking to friends who have already experienced going to school in the U.S.  You will hear stories of success and difficulties. Each person's experience is unique. There are however some commonalities for most in the form of adjustment or adaptation stages - and they occur for most people who immerse themselves in a new culture. The final stage, when you finally feel comfortable in your new surroundings WILL put away any negative feelings and get excited for your new experience. Once you arrive, there will be many people around to help you along the way. International Student Offices are available to provide you with assistance. Reach out to that office if you are feeling confused and they will point you in the proper direction. Also, new student orientation programs will provide you with a strong foundation of knowledge to help guide you.

Possible Adjustment Issues for International Students


What is cultural adaptation?

Adaptation to a new culture (sometimes referred to as “culture shock” ) has four stages. They are not fixed and you may find yourself at different stages at once.   
  • Honeymoon stage in the beginning, when you are excited by the novelty of the situation and you know little of how things work in the new culture.
  • Disenchantment stage when you face the realities of the new culture.
  • Beginning resolution stage when you try new behaviors in order to fit into the culture
  • Effective functioning stage when you becomes comfortable in the new culture (Ryan & Twibell, 2000).