When attending a pre departure orientation before going to study abroad, I was told that there are several stages of adaptation.
First, when you move to a new place, everything is new for you, you are very excited to meet new people and discover new places. This is the honeymoon. Then, after a while, homesickness gets you, unexpectedly, like a rain shower on a sunny day. This is when you start feeling hostile towards everything that surrounds you and your only wish is to return home, to mom and dad and your cat. A good thing is that the hostility stage doesn’t last for a long time, as after hitting this emotional low you begin to truly adapt and feel, bit by bit, more like at home.
Of course, this rule is not universal and can’t be applied to every student moving abroad. I, for instance, started with the hostility phase exactly from the moment I stepped on the US land, being invaded by homesickness and fears and anxiety and having a strong wish to catch a plane back home right away. Then, after getting used to the new country and making many great friends, I jumped right into the honeymoon phase, enjoying every moment I spent there and not wishing to return home. Whatever way you will go through this adaptation, it is to remember that it is only a period of your life that will soon end, and it is up to you to decide for how long this period will last.
Here are several steps that might ease your adjustment to the new culture.
- Get involved – participate in all the activities that are offered by the university, be it academic or outside class. It will be challenging from the beginning, but this is how you will really contribute to developing your life abroad.
- Take care of yourself – cultural adaptation can be tough on some of us, so it is very important to be aware about your physical and emotional health.
- Continue learning about the local culture – this will help you become more skilled at recognizing when differences are cultural rather than personal.
- Go to counseling – talking with a professional counselor about your transition to the new culture can help you adapt faster.
- Keep connected to home – it is very important, for your spiritual balance, to keep communication with your family and friends, and gratefully, today’s technology age will help you be connected with a single click.
And remember, there is no universal rule to cultural adjustment, everyone has to pass through this process on their own, but the key thing to remember here is that this experience is so great and irreplaceable, that you have to learn to enjoy it at the fullest. Dare!
Educational Adviser, EAC Moldova