Culture shock is a normal part of life – and as an international student myself, it definitely has been a huge part of my experience at UBC. Whether you’re an international student attending UBC for the first time, or a fresh graduate starting a new job, knowing how to deal with culture shock should be one of the first things on your radar!
Learn to recognize the symptoms of culture shock
Culture shock can manifest in many ways for different people. For some, culture shock can lead to feelings of discomfort, anxiety, and even frustration. Some may have an easier time adapting to a new place, but many more struggle with finding a sense of belonging. Remember to take a breather, re-center, and understand that you are not alone.
Give yourself time to adjust
In starting anything new, it is important to be easy on yourself– don’t worry about making mistakes! Remind yourself that everyone has had to ride the train for the first time; everyone has had to use Google Maps to find their way to their next class (Wayfinding UBC is a great, UBC-specific alternative)! There is no specific timeframe for when you will stop ‘adjusting’, either– most, if not all locals learn new things everyday!
Stay connected and find a sense of ‘home’
Establishing yourself in a community is incredibly important for many people embarking on a new adventure. This can mean different things for different people. For many at UBC, it’s joining a club and participating in local events. For others, community can mean joining a hobby group– as a voice actor, learning more about the industry in Vancouver really helped me find friends in the city. The most important thing is to find something that grounds you– something familiar and comforting.
Familiarize yourself with your new surroundings
Adapting to a new way of life can be tough, and challenge is a huge part of the process. There are several people around you willing to help, and the good ones are equally willing to learn more about you!
Understand that it never fully goes away
Culture shock is an experience that endures and reshapes itself– it never fully goes away. For example, international students visiting home for the first time in a while can find that they are different from the person they were before they left. In the time they were away, new trends, buildings, and changes in dynamics may have taken place. Life is constantly evolving and adapting, wherever you are. In this way, everyone deals with culture shock– everyone is always on their toes and getting used to new things!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Being able to ask for help is, arguably, one of the most useful skills you’ll ever learn. No one expects you to know everything– especially if you’re a newcomer! Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
If you find yourself facing serious mental health struggles or requiring specialized assistance, do not hesitate to seek professional help. At UBC, we offer mental health services to students, staff, and faculty, including a 24/7 mental health hotline, resources, and support for reaching out to licensed clinicians and psychiatrists.
Share what helps you deal with culture shock in the comments below!