Quick links

Dealing with Culture Shock

You are coming to a new university, a new city and for most of you, a new country, and above all, a new culture. As most international students do, you will experience a range of feelings and reactions when you first arrive. Do not be surprised if you start asking yourself what possessed you to come here in the first place!

Culture shock comes in many forms and people experience it in varying degrees.

As time goes by, and you see yourself settle into your routine, register for classes, begin the process of making friends, and explore the area you now call home, you will go through many emotional, psychological, and possibly physical changes. This is what is known as “cultural adjustment” or “cultural adaptation.” You cannot avoid these changes, but if you recognize them when they occur, you will be better prepared to deal with their consequences.

Cultural Adjustment Stages

Stage 1 – The Honeymoon Period

At first, everything new is exciting. You are happy to be living in a new culture.

Stage 2 – Culture Shock

You feel anxious about living in a new place. You must learn to manage your housing, transportation, food, language and people. You may feel tired from trying to speak English all the time. Sometimes you may feel unhappy, impatient, angry, stupid or sad. You may want to go back home. However, these feelings are good. They mean that you are becoming a part of the new culture.

Talk to an international student advisor if you have any of these feelings.

Stage 3 – Adjustment

Now everyday activities like housing, transportation and going to school are more normal. They are not problems. You have a routine for your regular life. You feel more comfortable talking in English, and you are happy living here.

Cultural Adjustment Tips

  • GIVE IT TIME. If you have never lived abroad before, the experience can be overwhelming. But do not worry, soon you will adjust to life in Canada just like the many international students who choose Canada as their study destination every year!
  • Pack your favourite foods from home (make sure they will be allowed on the flight!)
  • Search for the different ethnic stores in Edmonton and learn about what products are available from your country in Edmonton
  • Sign up for the buddy program – You’ll have a friend at CUE even before you arrive
  • Plan on attending Orientation – you’ll meet a lot of new international students who are also looking for friends
  • Keep in Touch with Friends and Family Back Home. You will feel less homesick, and your relationships will stay strong.
  • Attend International Student events
  • Attend sessions and workshops by the International Office
  • Participate in campus and city activities
  • Ask another student to show you around the University
  • Learn about where you live by taking the bus or LRT to different parts of Edmonton
  • Find out what recreation areas, post offices and shops are in your area, and when they open
  • Get involved in sports that you enjoy or with other student clubs, (see Recreation and Sports at the University of Alberta and Campus Student Organizations)
  • Develop Your Language and Study Skills
  • Attend writing and study skills workshops at the Academic Support Centre
  • Talk to your teachers if there is anything in class that you did not understand
  • Talk with people as much as you can. You will become more confident speaking English as you practice more.

The key to dealing with culture shock is to prepare for it! Think of ways to keep yourself occupied, social, healthy and happy BEFORE you come to Canada so that your transition becomes easier.