We tend to stay within our comfort zone and refrain from moving. A change of environment can be stressful when we have so many things to adapt to. My family moved from mainland China to Hong Kong when I was 12 years old, and I came to the US at 16. Therefore, I would like to share some of my experience on adapting to new environments and cultures in this entry, especially as a student.
1. Do homework beforehand. We might be so used to our old, smooth lives back home, that we are unaware of how hard culture shock can hit us. When I first moved to Hong Kong, I had no idea some of my schoolmates disliked mainland China that much. Although the teachers and some students treated me well, that did not stop some other students from mocking me and bullying me. I had self-confidence issues; I was depressed; I did not have a good experience. Had I known about the discrimination, even though maybe I couldn’t stop it from happening, I could at least have been more prepared. Although culture shocks do not always hurt that much, learning about the culture before going there can help up blend in the community more easily, thus making our time abroad more enjoyable.
2. Do not be afraid of your accent. In order to accommodate to the local community, the best way is to make friends with local students and join organizations. However, we might be shy sometimes because we don’t speak the language perfectly. We have to appreciate ourselves for studying and living in an environment with non-native language. We might have an accent, but so what? We are already achieving what a lot of people cannot. Therefore, be confident and do not hesitate to reach out and connect with the local students.
3. Be open-minded. Living in a different culture, we can be dazzled by the things “those foreigners” do all the time. Therefore, it is good to be open to new thoughts, so that we do not freak out when we see and hear things that do not align with our views. For example, I was raised in a culture that does not show affection physically. However, Americans like to hug each other. Although I was not used to it, I was not reluctant either. I respected the culture and tried to blend in. I would greet American friends with a warm hug; however, I would still just smile and wave when seeing friends from a different culture. I am not saying that we should do whatever the local people do, but that being open-minded can make our lives easier and happier. Also, here is an article on accepting and appreciating others’ views.
4. Be in touch with family. Being away from home can be hard. Being in another country, or a different time zone can be harder. We might feel grown up and that we no longer needed the support from family. However, family is the most likely place to get support and warmth when we encounter bad things. Moreover, our family members are most likely to be worried about us. Keeping in touch with family can not only help us get through rough times, but also remind us that there is someone on the other side of earth who loves us no matter what.
5. Learn how to cook. Food from the other side of the world is not always as good as what was at home. If we ever feel homesick because of food, it would be nice if we could make ourselves a delicious meal. Back in high school, I missed Asian food a lot and couldn’t wait to go home every time because of this. Then, I learned to cook for myself in college, and life became so much more fulfilling. Authentic food from home can always make our experience in a foreign country a greater blessing.
Living and studying abroad on our own is not easy. We should be proud of ourselves. I hope these tips can help international students like me to resolve problems and to have great time abroad!