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International Teachers

The Third Stage of Culture Shock: The Adjustment Period

Moving to a new country is undoubtedly a life-changing experience. Immersing yourself in a different culture allows for personal growth unlike many other opportunities. Making unforgettable memories and lifelong friends and seeing new places are all part of living abroad. But there is also a big adjustment that can bring a mix of emotions—confusion, exhaustion, and homesickness. This broad range of feelings is very common for people who are living in a new country. It’s often called culture shock. There are four stages of culture shock: honeymoon, frustration, adjustment, and acceptance.

In the first two parts of this blog series, we went into more detail about the honeymoon and frustration periods. When someone first moves abroad, they are often in the honeymoon stage, feeling enamored with their new life and culture. As time goes on, they often move into the frustration period as they struggle with learning a new language and new cultural norms and navigating everyday life.

In this third post of our series about culture shock, we will learn about the adjustment period, in which frustration subsides as someone builds confidence in their new home. While culture shock is often hard to go through, it is entirely possible to adapt, adjust, and thrive while living abroad.

The third stage: Adjustment

The third stage of culture shock, the adjustment period, usually comes after someone has adapted to their new life in another country. As they become familiar with new experiences, like the local language and transportation, confidence grows and frustration lessens. People in the adjustment period have often built a community of support and friendships in their new country.

Someone in the adjustment period can still experience frustration from time to time, and there are elements of the new culture they may still not understand. But as their cultural competence grows in the new environment, day-to-day life feels more manageable

How to adjust: Advice from Ambassador Teachers

Participate Learning’s Ambassador Teachers come from thirty-two different countries and experience firsthand the adjustment that happens when living far from home. They live and work in the U.S. for up to five years, serving as ambassadors of their culture and heritage in public schools.

Silvia Scorza, a former Ambassador Teacher from Costa Rica, has taught in both the U.S. and China, experiencing culture shock multiple times. Silvia said it was easier to adapt once she learned more about her environment:

Once I adjusted, I felt more relaxed and understanding of the differences. I had a more positive outlook on where I was living and didn’t try to compare everything with my life back in my home country.

I learned that I did not have to agree with or make sense of this cultural context but just be willing to accept the cultural differences in the world around me.

Caz Makepeace, an Ambassador Teacher from Australia, was surprised that she experienced culture shock when moving to the U.S. since it seemed similar to her home country. She recognized what she was going through and came to accept the cultural differences:

It wasn’t until I found myself in the principal’s office in a flood of tears that I realized I was suffering from culture shock—I never thought culture shock would bother me in the U.S., as it seemed like a country similar to my own. Yet here I was, sobbing to my principal about how challenging and different the teaching was.

I decided to accept the way of the education system, but I made an effort to liven up my classroom with stories and studies about Australia. Many of them [my students] still contact me today to tell me how much of an impact my Aussie presence had on their learning.

If you are experiencing culture shock right now, know that your range of emotions and feelings is totally normal. By seeking support from your community and embracing a new culture, it is entirely possible to adapt and thrive. As frustrating as it can be, living abroad is also a life-changing opportunity that provides personal and professional growth.

If you are interested in teaching in the U.S. with Participate Learning, learn more about our application process and requirements here.

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