International Student & Scholar Services

Cultural Adjustment

Culture Shock

Adjusting to life in a new country can be something of a roller coaster.  In fact, cultural adjustment is often described as a W curve:

Adjustment to a New culture is a gradual process

It is perfectly natural to experience ups and downs as you adjust to life in the US and the process will be different for each person.  A few tips to aid in the adjustment process:

  • Be open-minded.  The US may be very different from your home country, but don’t rush to judgment – sometimes different can be good!
  • Be proactive.  Getting involved in campus activities is a great way to make friends and establish a sense of belonging in your new home.
  • Have a sense of adventure.  Explore your new surroundings and engage with the community outside Western for a more well-rounded US experience.

There are many resources available to help you through the low periods.  If you’re feeling really down, stop by ISSS – we’ve also gone through the process of adjusting to life abroad and we’re here to listen.  We can also help connect you to campus offices such as the Counseling Center which provides assistance to students dealing with a variety of concerns.  The service is free to students enrolled for 6 or more credits.

US Culture

US culture is beamed around the world in the form of blockbuster action movies, TV comedies, fast food restaurants, rap music, and over-the-top political campaigns – but what is US culture really? 
Culture is commonly described as being similar to an iceberg.  Some aspects – like those listed previously – are visible above the surface, while others – such as conceptions of equality, friendship, and individualism – are not as easily understood.  The University of Nottingham has a fun exercise that explores this “culture as iceberg” idea.

When considering US culture, it is important to remember that the United States is a very large country and each region is unique.  A person from New England and a person from the Deep South will have very different experiences and perceptions.  The US population is also incredibly diverse and a wide range of traditions, beliefs, and cultural expressions can be found throughout the nation.

The following may help to shed light on some aspects of US culture: