ESL Online Magazine devotes this post to all the new international students who are busy unpacking their suitcases and getting settled into their new life in America. Although the initial excitement can help new students through the first days or weeks, loneliness and homesickness soon take over. This editor of ESL Online Magazine knows.Having lived abroad in four different countries, I know the challenges of taking up residence in a foreign land.
ESL Online Magazine’s Take on Jumping into a New Culture
Those of us at ESL Online Magazine believe that one of the best ways to transition successfully is to take the plunge. “Plunge” means to jump or dive into water or to move suddenly towards something. Fear often gets in the way and holds us back; however, those who overcome their fear and jump in rarely regret it. I’m not a very extroverted or daring person, so jumping in does not come naturally; however, I found that taking some small steps, day-by-day and week-by-week can help. Here are some ideas from ESL Online Magazine to get you going. Do you have any others? Post them in the comment section!
Some Ways to Make the Plunge
- Do one thing each day to get out of your comfort zone such as initiating a conversation, asking for help, going to a club or meeting, inviting someone over for a meal;
- Join a club or sports team;
- Get to know your city and institution. Take tours. Learn the history. Attend an event or holiday celebration. Do one thing a week;
- Try not to judge. Notice differences. Ask why someone is done differently rather than criticize. Be a student of the culture;
- Keep a journal to record your experiences and what you’re learning. It helps to process what you are experiencing.
- Get to know people on your floor, in your department, and in your clubs or organizations. Make a goal to meet one new person a week.
- Although it’s important to be brave and take the plunge in a new culture, it is equally helpful to have a support group of students who are from your country. However, be careful not to spend all your time with students from your country; otherwise, you’ll miss out on all that the cross-cultural experience has to offer you.
- Read a novel that folks around you are reading, attend a church service, learn to cook an American dish, learn the rules of American football or baseball, or go see a movie that everyone is talking about. Join the conversation.
- Try to find one trusted American friend to whom you can ask questions about the culture;
- Make the plunge into American culture, but also retain some of your own. Treat yourself to regular dishes from your culture and other things that remind you of home. Are there a few things you could get for your dorm or home that would make your room feel more like home?
- Beware of social media. Constant use of Facebook, Skype, or WeChat can rob you completely of the experience of crossing cultures. Live life fully in the here and now with real live people!
- Be a student of your new culture. Read all you can about it. I recommend Gary Althen’s book American Ways: A Cultural Guide to the United States.
- Be grateful. Challenge yourself to find five things to be thankful for each day. Why not write them down.
A Special Note for Those Staying at Home from ESL Online Magazine
For those of you at home in your own country, why not seek out a foreigner who is taking the plunge into your homeland? Be that resource and friend. Take some of these ideas and explore the culture of your new-found friend without ever leaving home. You’ll be richer for it.