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Cultural Adjustment

Cultural adjustment
Most people who live in a foreign country for an extended period of time experience cultural stress. It is normal to feel overwhelmed and frustrated. This is all part of the cultural learning process! Living in a culture that is different from your own can be both an exciting adventure and a challenging process. Regardless of what country you are from, it is common for all international students to go through a period of cultural adjustment. Understanding this adjustment process and getting support through this transition will help you to have a more fulfilling experience, both personally and academically.

Culture shock
The values, social norms, and traditions in Iceland may be quite different from believes about "how things should be" in the country where you grew up. When individuals move to another culture, they naturally carry their own background and life experiences with them, which shape how they perceive and adjust to their new environment. For example, some of you may find Icelandic classroom culture easy to adjust to, while others may struggle significantly in this area. "Culture shock" is a common experience that describes the feelings of confusion, stress and disorientation that occur when entering an unfamiliar culture. Keep in mind that not everyone has the same reactions to cultural adjustment and may experience the symptoms of culture shock in varying degrees, and at different times. Common reactions to culture shock include:

  • extreme homesickness
  • avoiding social situations
  • physical complaints and sleep difficulties
  • difficulty with coursework and inability to concentrate
  • overreacting
  • significant nervousness or exhaustion

Strategies to help you cope with the adjustment process

Adapting to a new culture is an ongoing process. It may be challenging at times, but most students who experience culture shock agree that going through this transition helped them to learn more about themselves and to develop greater confidence in their ability to navigate in new situations. It can also lead to a renewed appreciation of one's own culture. There are many people in the university community who are available to provide you with support. Keep in mind that you do not have to struggle alone.

Here are resources that you can utilize:
The University Student Counselling Center
The International Office