Young people frequently move abroad for studying at a foreign university. Another countries’ culture may be very different from their homeland’s. Students go through different stages as they try to adjust to this new culture. It is an interesting, sometimes stressful process. Most people go through these stages regardless of their immigration status. A student moving to a new region with its unique regional culture and accent, a person going to college for the first time, etc, they could all go through the stages of cultural adjustment.
Stages of Cultural Adjustment
Culture shock is experienced by every newcomer. For some the adjustment is fairly rapid, but for others, it is a long and difficult process. Four stages of cultural adjustment have been identified by Gregory Trifonovitch.
The Honeymoon Stage
Characterized by exhilaration, anticipation, and excitement.
A student in the honeymoon stage is eager to please and to learn. He is cooperative and enthusiastic – a joy to work with them. But in his eagerness to please, he may nod or smile to indicate understanding when in fact he has not understood at all.
When misunderstandings mount up, he is likely to experience the second stage.
The Hostility Stage
Characterized by frustration, anger, fear, and sometimes physical illness.
A student becomes tired of the strain of listening and speaking in English, communicating with people who speak another language, perhaps don’t understand English well. He may be embarrassed by his failure and mistakes, frustrated that his progress seems so slow and perhaps angry in such an unhappy situation.
Students tend to blame the environment for their problems. They become hostile toward the school, the teacher, other students, or even the host community. They are difficult to work with and will try other’s patience and tolerance.
Typical problems are fits of anger, lack of motivation, frequent absences, and, at worst, withdrawal – the “I don’t care, anyway” attitude. These students need patience, support, firm and caring persistence so that they can begin to experience the third stage of adjustment.
The Humor Stage
As the student begins to relax, he can laugh at the difficulties and unusual characteristics of the host culture which no longer seem quite so overwhelming.
Students begin to make friends and discover they can manage the daily routines at school – no longer feeling as though they are always lost, confused, or misunderstood.
These students are generally easy to work with because they are relaxed, receptive, and understand the teachers’ directions.
The Home Stage
When the student feels “at home” in his new environment, he has learned to live and work in two cultures. Still loyal to his own culture, he is able to learn and to grow just as well in his new “home.”
(This article is based on the works of Gregory Trifonovitch.)