Previous risk factors that increase the cultural shock

"Why do some foreign college students have difficulty adjusting when they study abroad?"

There is no magic recipe to prevent the difficulties that a student who is studying abroad temporarily will suffer. However, ​​after more than 450 conversations with foreign university students, I have observed that they share some common previous factors that hinder them for adjusting properly to an unexpected reality. Among them:

  • In the past, they have had difficulty adapting to new contexts (eg has find it hard to adjust to a new school, to a change of residence, to high school, to college, etc.).
  • They have experienced anxiety when being exposed to changes
  • It is the first time they are so far from their families and usually struggle when they are away from them.
  • In social situations they usually feel mighty anxious and can't avoid be continuously self-centred. Such anxiety tends to increase especially if they are new social situations.
  • They fear big cities.
  • They suffer anxiety when things are not under control.

How can we take these factors into account to help students in their adaptation?

While these previous factors do not act as a universal law, which always take place, they are actually patterns of the past. This implies that they are highly likely to be repeated again during their stay. So if the universities that host foreign students, Study Abroad Programs, teachers and students themselves are aware of them, they may be alert, act quicker and offer sooner the support needed to successfully adapt to this adventure that entails studying abroad.