“Your talent is a seed; cultivate it, and in no time, you will harvest successMatshona Dhliwayo, Zimbabwean philosopher

How to overcome culture shock while studying abroad in Europe

Before delving into these tips, it is important for you to note that culture shock is absolutely normal – so don’t worry! 

From not-so-familiar cuisine to changing seasons, adjusting to life in an Asian or European, or American university could be challenging. It will take time and some expert guidance, and the latter is provided inadequate supply in this post. Follow these tips and beat culture shock in the shortest time possible!

When I first stepped foot in Sweden for diploma studies, I was amazed, at first, at some of the general ways of life of the Swedes. In addition to the general shock, I was surprised at the modus operandi of Swedish universities. Over time though, I overcame these shocks and enjoyed my time. In this post, I present six tips that I believe if applied properly, can help you beat culture shock too–and fast. 

Don’t Be Hard on Yourself 

Trust me, this helps. It helped me and it will help you. Adjusting to culture shock takes time; overcoming the feeling of being homesick takes time, but you must understand that you’re not the first person to experience this feeling. Certainly, you won’t be the last. Your adjustment may take weeks or months, but let it happen naturally, as people react and adjust to changing environments differently. 

In my case, I set goals for myself. I chose one or two ‘Swedish’ things per week to share with friends and family back home in Nigeria. Often, I tried to inculcate habits that were not so common at home (in my case I visited a museum every so often). 

Stay Focused on the Positive Stuff 

There is one thing I can assure you: you will find it easy to stay pressed about all the downsides of your new environment. This familiar food from back home not on your menu at the American restaurant. The hustle and bustle of your local city (if you live in Lagos or Johannesburg). The customs of your people back home not being respected. Everyone experiences it. 

However, comparing your old environment to the new one will do you no good. Settling in when you encounter culture shock abroad begins when you begin to accept the positives about your environment and adapting to the negatives. Notice and write down the fun things and interesting discoveries every time you come across one. It will do you a great deal of good. 

Understand your academic Environment 

One of the first things I had to adjust to during my experience was the academic environment. Unlike in Nigeria where it was almost forbidden, I found that I could call my teachers by their first names. This was one of many other differences I had to adjust to. 

Similarly, you will need to adjust to a different academic climate. Understanding your environment, your learning expectations, your school’s academic requirements, and several other details will help you reduce anxiety about your schoolwork. Talk to your professors, your faculty advisors, senior colleagues, and friends about what is expected by your university. This will help you approach classes and other courses to work appropriately.  

Network with Friends   

Without a doubt, one of the easiest ways to overcome cultural shock is to meet and seek the opinion of others – talk to people. Locals and fellow students from the host country can help teach you some cultural norms. But you may find that they may not be as helpful as you might like them to be. Forming beneficial bonds with other international students or joining communities of students from your continent or home country will certainly help. There you can find people who are also out of their comfort zone. No doubt they will share their experiences and can teach you about how they deal with culture shock.  

Discover Ways to Relieve Stress 

Trying to cope with cultural differences can be stressful. Worse still, your academic load may also be so stressful that it may be difficult to keep up. Finding ways to relieve stress can help you burn off the nervous energy you might be getting through culture shock.  You need to feel comfortable to be able to perform well on your course. 

First off, consider exercising. Exercising helps you recharge and leaves you fresh and ready to go every day. Exercises like yoga, meditation, and strength exercises could help you relax. Joining student clubs, especially those that promote socializing and meeting people, or exploring new hobbies can also come in handy in your quest to ease the stress within your new environment. 

Always Keep an Open Mind 

I don’t think this point can be emphasized enough. For you to enjoy the benefits of study abroad while also downplaying the downsides, you must keep an open mind. Look at things from different perspectives. Explore new vistas in your chosen academic discipline. Meet new people. Try new stuff. View practices that may appear strange through a lens of objectivity. You can only get better that way. 

For instance, one time I had a professor behave in a way I considered strange. Instead of sulking and playing the victim, I confronted her and found that she had some trouble while growing up. So, it may not always be as it seems. Ask questions before you conclude on anything. 

If you apply these six principles, you will have very little problem adapting to and eventually overcoming culture shock.