Culture shock occurs when a student is suddenly exposed to a culture very different from the culture in which the student was raised. Culture shock can cause the student to feel surprised, confused, and anxious. These feelings are normal! First generation college students are at risk of feeling college shock. First generation college students may feel additional stress when they try to speak with their family members who do not understand why the transition to college is so difficult. Culture shock can also be experienced by international students who feel isolated by differences in language, religion, peer relationships, and food. Life in the UP may also create culture shock adjustment problems for students from other regions of the country as well! While there are some unusual traditions, customs, and food in the UP, Yoopers are generally friendly and welcoming people who enjoy life. Living in the UP can provide the opportunity to meet some really wonderful people and experience some unique activities that will not be found in other parts of the country.
A student experiencing culture shock may try to isolate herself by staying in her residence hall room and not attending campus events or only associate with people from their region of the country or the world. The student may sit alone at meal times, in the library, and in class. The student may also spend too much time dwelling on what they are missing “back home,” and fill their free time by doing things that keep them connected to that world (e.g. Facebook, chatting online, watching movies, or staying up late in order to talk to family and friends when they are awake). The student may claim that he needs to do something else when all of the other students in the hall are participating in a hall social activity. The student may exhibit signs of depression: withdrawal, crying, over/under eating, over/under sleeping, or missing class. The student may say she feels “different from everybody else.” The student may express a desire to drop out of school or to move because the student “just doesn’t fit in.”
When you become aware of a student with a culture shock adjustment problem, encourage the student to:
- Recognize that homesickness and culture shock are normal.
- Build strong peer relationships to support both academic and social goals. Try to connect with other students who have had similar experiences.
- Develop a mentor relationship with a faculty or staff member.
- Join a student organization.
- Participate in campus and community events.
- Keep a journal.
- Get help from campus services, including Counseling and Wellness Services, the International Programs and Services Office, or the Center for Diversity and Inclusion.
- Research points of interests or activities unique to the Upper Peninsula.
- Give up on your education.
- Stay isolated.
- Dwell on the negative.
- Give up your personal identity.
Cushman, K. (2007). Facing the culture shock of college. Educational Leadership, 64 (7), p. 44-47.