Why it is Hard to Fit in a new culture or environment?

Do you feel it’s hard to make friends when you start university? Did you travel internationally and experience cultural shock? Or are you struggling with cultural assimilation? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone. I was an international student and I know what it’s like! Let’s go through this together and explore why, for some people, it is hard to adjust.

Did you know that there are 799,371 international students in Australia from all around the world? Leaving family, friends and the familiar contexts of home, international students can experience a mountainous array of new experiences, as they navigate a new culture, a new language, a new social context, and a new spectrum of tertiary learning.

What are some of the things that can enhance psychological well-being in students?

Many students can find this transition challenging, experiencing a range of psychosocial impacts that can negatively impact wellbeing. Research indicates that socio-cultural adaptability may be a key factor in determining the positivity of international students’ experiences while studying overseas.

Identifying with the host country’s culture enhances well-being such as increased happiness, building meaningful relationships, optimistic expectations and positive thoughts, which leads to better socio-culture adaptation. In contrast, low sociocultural adaptability or being low in these factors or capabilities is associated with psychological and social distress, including depression, anxiety, psychosomatic disorders, headaches and low energy levels.

If you are a student (or not!) and are experiencing something similar, reach out to Halcyon and speak to a qualified counsellor. We at Halcyon believe everyone deserves access to the best mental health care. 

What are the factors that can challenge sociocultural adaptation?

Barriers to cultural assimilation include new languages, which may restrict communication and cultural understanding. Another barrier to socio-cultural adaptation is a lack of student community in Australian universities; students argued that lack of social support network leads to feelings of isolation and homesickness. Students also claimed that the cost of living makes it difficult for them to adapt in Australia as they are concerned about part-time employment hindering their education and leaving them with less time to socialise.

We have been talking about challenges faced by students, but do we have to live like this? Is this our new reality when we start university, or can we change it into something better?

Facilitating adaptability

Existing social support may be able to facilitate socio-cultural adaptability. Social support refers to emotional and instrumental care. Emotional support can make people feel loved, respected and a feeling of belonging to a social group. Instrumental support refers to the assistance provided by the host country such as providing information and solving difficulties encountered by international students which may reduce pressure and negative emotions of cross-cultural adaptation. Better relationships of international students with domestic students predict adjustment to a new culture. The frequency of interaction with people in host and home country has an impact on international student’s socio-cultural adaptability.

Tips on cultural assimilation:

·   Be aware of your feelings and what exactly is triggering distress.

·   Reach out to friends and family instead of isolating yourself. This may be hard for some cultures who are not prone to sharing feelings. In this instance, reach out to student services and other students to build a strong social bond. Most universities also provide therapy for students who are struggling, avail all opportunities.

·   If you are an international student, reach out to other international students and share your difficulties over a cup of coffee. Listening to how other students are coping will promote a sense of normality and you won’t feel alone.

·   The most effective way to assimilate into a new culture would be to accept it! Get out and explore the areas near you. Take yourself out on a date and buy a guidebook. Speak to local people and get to know them. Most universities have events planned for their students, book them, and explore as much as you can!

·   Take part in sports or join a gym. Exercise promotes physical and mental well-being.

Do you relate to any of the challenges and facilitators mentioned above? Do you require a professional who can help understand the reasons behind your distress and create a plan together for a better future? Just click on the top right corner on “login and book” and connect with a qualified counsellor at Halcyon.

If you are a student, we understand that you have assignments and classes throughout the week. Halcyon is open 7 days a week and can work around your schedule (even after hours!).