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Get ready for culture shock!

By Andrea Schmitt
Welcome to Stanstead! Or welcome back to Stanstead!
 
If you are a day student or a boarding student, welcome! You are back on campus, and Stanstead life is going to become a reality! If this is your first fall on campus or your sixth, the start of the school year is always, let’s say, “interesting,” and it is ambiguous. Ambiguous meaning “being open to more than one interpretation” or “having double meaning.” On the one hand, I am sure you are excited, and on the other hand, you may dread this situation. Your heart and mind are still on vacation, and your body is in this little town in Canada.
 
What to do…?
 
 Bear in mind that this is a just phase!
 
Sverre Lysgard explored this already in 1955 in his theory of “cross-cultural adjustment.” It refers to all the social and emotional changes we experience when we move into any new environment.
 
What you experience is “culture shock.” You just moved from Mexico, China or the USA to Canada, a different (often completely different) culture. Or you just made the move from a Canadian school to Stanstead College; it is still a new culture, namely “Stanstead College Culture.” Culture shock refers to the differences in language, behaviour, food, customs, and culture (among others).
 
There are four different phases: honeymoon, frustration, adjustment and acceptance. You move through them at your own pace. This can happen once, you can get stuck in one phase, recede or move through them multiple times until you come out the other end. Just for your info, I have lived in 9 different countries, in 17 places, and have just “survived” my 27th move, so I know what you are going through, I really do…!
 
The honeymoon phase: You have just arrived in your host country, and you are nervous but also excited, surprised and fascinated. It all seems new, you are ready to explore Stanstead College, the town and are eager to meet new people. (This is when my daughter makes a long list of “things to do and explore.”)
 
Frustration: This is when the “culture shock” begins. You face real-life conditions, problems and challenges. In this phase, individuals often become depressed or even sick as they find themselves frustrated and have hostile attitudes towards the new country and its residents. You might hate everybody and everything, including your roommate, the town and teachers. (I always really, really want to leave in this phase….)
 
Adjustment: You get used to being in Stanstead and are okay with its new values, rules ​​and norms. You are getting used to your roommate and classmates and have gotten to know the teachers. You generally act and function well in the new culture. (Sometimes, in this phase, we recede just when we thought we made it out the other end. We believe we are okay, and then “frustration” hits us again, and we are not! This is normal!)
 
Acceptance or mastery: In this phase, you enjoy living in the new culture. You know how to deal with and master it comfortably. You have accepted and adapted to the foreign host country. Congratulations, you have made it!
 
So, when you have a crisis, just remember you are in one of these phases. Take out the tissues and have a good cry. Or call your mom or a friend and commiserate with them. Go to a teacher, your advisor, or house mom, tell them about your frustrations, get it out! If it doesn’t get better, ask for support! You are not alone! I can assure you that most of your classmates or roommates are in one of these stages and feel miserable and lonely to some extent and that “nobody understands me.” They might put on a smile, but behind it, there might be something else. (Same as you when you try to be brave!)
 
And please know, each of us experiences these stages differently. For me, it has been different in each country, in each new place. The impact and order are unique to you and vary widely. There is no time limit to when “you should have mastered this” and don’t listen to people who tell you that you “should feel better by now”! You WILL come out the other end but at your own pace.
 
Here’s to riding your U-curve of cultural adjustment well and in your own time!
 
Andrea Schmitt is a life coach specializing in teenage girls and a former Stanstead parent (Jessica Lozano Schmitt 2018). Find out more about her services at https://www.globalgirlcoach.com/ or email andrea@globalgirlcoach.com. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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