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Culture shock gives people chance to step out of comfort zone

April 4, 2017

Before coming to the United States to study, I received a warning from my Taiwanese professor. She told me that there would be some challenges waiting for me that would not easy to overcome, especially since this is my first time living abroad.

She called this challenge “culture shock,” which I did not really understand until my first class for spring semester started. Although I always earned an A+ in my English classes in Taiwan, I still had trouble following the language.

To me, the conversation between the professor and my classmates sounded like someone fast-forwarding a movie while I was watching. I failed to catch what they were talking about and missed most of the discussion during class.

I also figured out that my classmates were very active in class; they raised their hands to answer questions instead of waiting for the professor to call on them to give the answer. That was really different than the students in my home country, which made me feel confused and anxious in the first two weeks.

That was my first moment of culture shock in the United States, and the moment felt like a hurtful reminder that I was not in my “home country” anymore.

For those of you who might study abroad in the future, here are the symptoms of culture shock. You will feel lonely and sad for most of your class time. If you were an extroverted person in your home country, you might turn into an introverted person because you will lack confidence, become quiet and be unwilling to interact with other people.

It sounds terrible that you change your personality just because of culture shock, but it was the thing that really happened to me. And, believe me, if you do not try to overcome culture shock, it will not disappear but exist continually.

After being depressed for the first two weeks of the spring semester, I decided to turn the tables, because becoming a depressed person was not my target for studying abroad.

There’s a saying that goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” The first thing I did is try to raise my hand and share my ideas in the class, despite the fact that my ideas were not perfect. I tried to be brave, and that made me feel confident again. Some of my classmates even discussed my ideas with me after the class, which gave me the chance to have some small talks with them.

The second thing I have tried is to join some association activities such as being a hostess at the Chinese New Year Gala. When I spend time practicing this task, I feel valuable and not depressed anymore. The feeling of accomplishing a big job is the best way to regain your confidence and energy.

Now, I can give speeches in class, and I feel free to chat with my classmates. Being a hostess also helped me overcome stage fright, which I believe is beneficial to my job in the future.

What I learned from these experiences is that culture shock can destroy your belief and goal of studying abroad, but it can be a chance to work on yourself, as well. The only thing you need is to have the courage to do something that you had never done in your home country.

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