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Student Life
Life @ SC

The Rollercoaster Ride Ahead

By Andrea Schmitt
Stanstead life is going to become a reality! Whether this is your first time on campus or your third, the start of the school year is always, let’s say, “interesting,” and it is ambiguous. Ambiguous means “having double meaning.” On the one hand, you are excited; on the other hand, you dread the situation.
 
First, if you’re feeling nervous, please know this is normal. Second, be aware that you will adapt to Stanstead College (SC) in phases. The phases have sort of a general concept but also a personal one. Let me explain…
 
You are heading into another culture or other cultures. If you’re a day student or a Canadian student coming in from another province, then you’ll be experiencing the new “Stanstead College culture.” The culture of a boarding school is different from your normal local middle or high school. You’ll also encounter different international cultures. You might have classmates from Mexico, roommates from Germany, and sportsmates from Hong Kong. If you’re an international student, you’ll have to deal with all of the above, plus the new country and its Canadian culture.
 
Bearing this in mind, you’ll need to adapt the best possible way, and good practice is knowing about the “cross-cultural adaptation curve.” Sverre Lysgard explored this in 1955 in his “cross-cultural adjustment” theory. It refers to all the social and emotional changes we experience when we move into any new environment. What you’ll experience is “culture shock.” Culture shock refers to the differences in language, behaviour, food, customs and culture (among others) between your home and the host country.
 
There are different phases: honeymoon, initial culture shock, superficial adjustment, culture shock, recovery and integration. 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 reach the other end. For your information, I have lived in 9 different countries, in 17 places, and have “survived” my 27th house move. So, I know what you are going through, I really do…!
 
A diagram of a cultural adaptation curveDescription automatically generated
  
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 your room and are eager to meet new people. Being excited is the overall feeling.
 
Initial culture shock: You start feeling frustrated and annoyed with everyday situations. You think being at SC is not great; you see the first challenges, and the weather gets on your nerves. The overall feeling is being annoyed.
 
Superficial adjustment: You feel like you’ve sort of adjusted, have decorated your room, have met a few nice people, picked a sport and got to know all your teachers. Your overall feeling is okay.
 
Culture Shock: In this phase, you feel exasperated by all these new cultural norms and customs in SC and Canada. You might hate everybody and everything, including your roommate, the town and teachers. You’re missing your family and friends back home. Some problems with your new friend arise. In this phase, individuals often feel depressed or sick. If the honeymoon phase seemed pink, this one appears grey and gloomy. You think that it is not worth being here. You tell your parents that you want to go back home!
 
Recovery: You’re fine being in Stanstead College with all its values, rules ​​and norms. You are getting used to your room, classmates and teachers. You generally act and function well in the new culture, feeling better, good and in control. You notice that you’ve passed the dark spot you were in and are “fine.”
 
Integration: You accept the Canadian culture with all its pros and cons. Maybe not 100% but enough to feel good about being here. You know you can manage and don’t want to leave anymore. This might be when you ask your parents if you could stay another year. Congratulations, you have made it!
 
As you’ve seen, this w-shaped curve is not smooth. There are bumps, turns, loops and sometimes you find yourself back in a previous phase… That’s why some people describe it more like a rollercoaster!
 
So, when you feel off, sad, frustrated or alone, please remember you are in one of these phases. Acknowledge the feelings, don’t push them away with a “I’m fine.” If you want, take out the tissues and have a good cry. Call your mom or friend and tell them how you feel! Go to a teacher, advisor, house mom or school counselor, or contact me. Tell us about your frustrations, get it out!
 
Also, please know that you are not alone! I can assure you that most of your classmates or roommates are also in one of these stages. They might feel miserable, lonely and like “nobody understands me” behind that smile…
 
Each of you will experience these stages differently. The impact and order are unique to you. 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.
 
I wish you a good roller coaster ride while settling into the new Stanstead College school year!
 
Kindly, Andrea

Andrea Schmitt is a life coach specializing in teens 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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