Cultural & Academic Adjustment
Student Experience: Culture Shock -- Columbia Business
What is Culture Shock?
Basically, culture shock is cultural adjustment. You are in a
different country with different customs, norms, lifestyle, and
there will be an adjustment period. The amount of time it will take
to adjust varies from person to person; as well as the initiation,
severity, and triggers of culture shock.
Culture shock is usually represented in a 'U' curve and will
consist of 4 stages: Excitement, Frustration, Understanding, and
Acclimation. The image below shows the 'U' curve for the host
country, as well as 'reverse culture shock', which you can
experience when you return home.
Stages of Culture Shock
Excitement Stage: (also known as the
'honeymoon' stage): You will experience excitement when you first
arrive. Everything around you is new and different, people are
friendly and helpful, and you are keeping busy with all the
tourist-like activities. You are really enjoying yourself!
Frustration/Rejection Stage: This usually
occurs when the classes have been in session for a couple weeks.
You begin to become frustrated with the new and different aspects
of the culture. The people who were very helpful in the beginning
may be busy with classes and extra-curricular activities, and may
not have as much time to dedicated to helping you, the classes are
not like the classes at home, you hate the food, etc. This is the
most difficult stage. You might experience the following
- Depression, fatigue, insomnia
- Loss of self-confidence
- Anxiety, confusion, frustration
- Fear and insecurity
- Grief - mourning for old life
- Loneliness and isolation
- Annoyance and over-sensitivity
Understanding Stage: You will need to learn
about the culture, people, lifestyle, and environment of your
foreign country in order to understand the differences you find
yourself frustrated by. In order to reach the understanding stage,
you will need to immerse yourself in the foreign culture. Against
all the feeling in the 'Frustration Stage' you will need to get
involved on campus and get to know the culture by meeting people
and asking questions. Personality traits that have shown increased
success in reaching the 'Understanding Stage' at a faster rate
An Open Mind -- be open to the new and different way of
life. Try foods you've never tried before, go to a
(American) football game, participate in class, etc.
A Sense of Humor -- humor will help when you get
frustrated, annoyed, or insecure. Be able to laugh and move beyond
the little annoyances.
Communicativeness -- Talk to people, ask questions; but
more importantly, if you are feeling sad, lonely, frustrated, do
not be afraid to speak to an advisor or a counselor.
Curiosity -- You need to have a genuine desire to learn
about the culture, people, lifestyle and places in which you
find yourself. The ability to adapt comes from learning about your
Flexibility and Adaptiveness -- Life in the U.S. may be
a little different or a lot different from your home. You will need
to be tolerant and try not to pass judgment in new situations.
Positive and Realistic Expectations -- If you
enter a new situation with a positive attitude, the outcome is more
likely to be positive. We have a saying in the U.S.: 'smiling is
contagious'. However, you do need to have realistic expectations,
and that is when flexibility comes in.
Acclimation: Once you come to understand the
new culture, you will begin to embrace it. You may even feel like
it's your new home and have difficulty leaving when the time comes
to return home.
*If you are experiencing extreme culture shock and are not
acclimating to Butler, please contact the Counseling Center or OISS
Counseling and Consultation Center provides counseling
help to all students on an individual or group basis in many areas
related to their University experiences. All counseling, whether
individual or group, is strictly voluntary and fully confidential.
Students may wish to come to the Counseling Center regarding issues
of a personal, social, career, or academic nature. The center is
staffed by a professional psychologist and closely supervised
Students are seen by appointment only, except in emergency
situations. Students may either walk in to schedule an appointment
All individual and group counseling sessions are provided at no
cost to the student. However, in more serious circumstances where
psychiatric consultation is recommended by the Counseling and
Consultation Center or requested by the student, the student will
incur the cost of individual sessions with the consulting
Group counseling is a situation in which six to eight students
who have mutual concerns meet together on a regular basis with a
Counseling and Consultation Center staff member. Placement in a
group will normally come from a recommendation within the
Counseling and Consultation Center.
The staff also provides consultation to any campus organization
or group. This would require that the group request services and
meet with the appropriate staff members to discuss their specific
Student Experience: Academic Adjustment -- Columbia
Key Observations about the American Education System
- Of the various academic traditions, one of the most significant
is the degree of informality in American classrooms. Free
discussions and critical questions are encouraged by most faculty
members, and you will notice that the professor wants to hear your
opinions even if they do not align with the opinions of the
- Class attendance is critical. If you miss classes, the
professor will assume you are uninterested.
- Be on time to class. Being late to class is a sign of
disrespect and some professors will not allow you to enter
after the class has begun.
- Class participation is often considered in determining the
grade. You should therefore speak up in class, ask
questions, and take part in discussions.
Asking for Help:
- Professors will generally wait for students to come to them for
help rather than offering assistance. However, they usually
are very willing to help if you approach them, especially at
Butler. Most professors have designated office hours where
you can make an appointment to speak with them about any questions
or concerns you have about the course. If you are struggling in
your class, GO TO OFFICE HOURS! Your professors are
your best form of support.
- Tests are given frequently in most undergraduate courses and
you must therefore study consistently from the very beginning of
the semester. If you get behind at the beginning of the
semester, you may not be able to catch up.
- The professor will usually tell you in the first class how
your final grade will be determined. Professors differ in the
weight given to various factors, such as class participation,
attendance, tests and final examinations, in determining the final
grade. Be sure that you understand how the grade will be
assigned. If you do not understand, ask!
- It is generally estimated that students at Butler University
need to spend two to three hours studying for each hour spent in
class. Students who are still becoming accustomed to reading
in English will find more study time necessary.
Sources of Academic Assistance in the University
Center -- The LRC offers tutoring in many different areas, as
well as workshops for academic success in higher education. It also
runs Strategies for Success - LC100, a class that focuses on
the academic success of international students. The LRC is located
in Jordan Hall, room 136.
Studio -- The Writers' Studio can help with any type of
writing assignment. You will need to make an appointment; each
'writing consultation' is 45 minutes. The Writers' Studio is
located in Jordan Hall, room 304.
Lab -- The Speakers Lab can help you with your
presentation skills. There are peer tutors available by appointment
or walk-in that will help you from the development to the delivery
of your presentation. The Speakers Lab is located in the Fairbanks
Building, rooms 140 & 250.