Keep healthy & happy
Understanding Culture Shock
Living in a foreign culture is an experience we often look forward to with excitement and enthusiasm. However, many of us are often unprepared for the extent of the cultural dissimilarity we encounter. Culture shock is very real, and all international students entering a foreign culture are affected by it in some way.
Experiencing Culture Shock
People experience culture shock in varying degrees of intensity. It’s important for you to realise that you’ll probably experience it even before you arrive. It is common to feel isolated, homesick, sad and lacking motivation at times. Anxiety and possible regrets about having made a poor decision can result in headaches, fatigue and general unwellness. These reactions are common and will eventually ease, especially as you begin to understand the local culture and the language. Remember that there’s always someone or a service available to help you.
Making connections with students from your own culture will give you a sense of belonging and familiarity, but try to make time to participate in clubs and activities with others. New opportunities and new experiences are all part of the unique – and sometimes challenging – culture surrounding you.
Ways to cope with culture shock and homesickness
Remember that experiencing culture shock is normal. Others will have similar feelings, even though you think they may be doing fine.
Talking to someone you trust helps – start with your international student director / advisor / counsellor.
Keep in regular contact with family and friends at home via email, phone or Skype. Tell them how you feel and of any problems you have. Let them know you want to hear from them.
Stay healthy; exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and eat good foods.
Be patient; you need time to adjust. It’s okay to make mistakes when you learn from them.
If you’re finding study too hard, talk to your teacher, an advisor or the staff at your institution. They can help you to improve your study and time management skills.
Be realistic about what to expect from student life and from yourself; avoid putting too much pressure on yourself.
There’s no rush to make major decisions, for example staying or leaving New Zealand.
Keep a journal so that you can compare your feelings later with the feelings you had when you first arrived. Hopefully you will realise your situation is improving and you are feeling better.
Establish simple goals and evaluate your progress.
Avoid the temptation to spend all of your time with students from your own culture, but maintain some contact with these students. This will give you a feeling of belonging and you’ll reduce your feelings of loneliness.
Be open-minded and try to remember that New Zealand will not be completely like your home country. People will behave in ways that may seem odd to you or even rude, but it‘ll not seem that way to them. Try to avoid expecting other cultures to be exactly like yours.
Keep busy and active through your studies. Join clubs and participating in sports. You’re not the only new student; many people will be joining clubs and groups, just like you.
Develop a hobby and seek new opportunities.
Remember all of the good and unique things you’re experiencing while living in New Zealand.
Talk to an international student ambassador if you experience culture shock:
Being Aware of Stress
Studying can be very stressful for any student, and for international students, language and cultural differences can increase the stress factors. The first and most important thing to do is realise that your feelings are normal. Sometimes you may not know exactly what the problem is, but you might know that you don’t feel happy or relaxed.
If you’re worried about your stress level, don’t wait to seek help. If you’d prefer to talk with someone over the phone, you can call Lifeline.
Safety in Public Places
New Zealand is generally considered to be a safe country, but no matter where you are in the world there are always people who cannot be trusted. Follow some simple guidelines to avoid putting yourself in unnecessary danger.
If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, here are some steps to help keep yourself safe:
Be aware and take notice of what’s around you. Check street signs so you know where you are.
At night, it’s safest to stay in areas where there are a lot of other people and lighting. There may be times when it’s best not to walk through a group of people. Cross the road to avoid contact.
Cover up expensive jewellery when walking.
Keep your house and car keys separate, in case your handbag or belongings are stolen.
Carry a personal alarm or mobile phone.
Tell family, friends or colleagues of your plans.
Avoid walking alone at night by planning transportation from a (sober) friend, or call a taxi.