NC State
Intensive English Program

The following section on Culture Shock is taken directly from the International Exchange Student Handbook created by the Study Abroad office at NC State and is used with permission.

There are many theories and ways of explaining culture shock, but the term mostly relates to the emotional changes and adjustments that take place during the transition to a new culture. The timeframe given below is just a guide. You may experience phases at a different time during your stay, or you may not experience some stages at all. Here is a general guide regarding culture shock and what to expect as you adjust to a new culture:

Pre-Departure

As you prepare to leave your home, there may be a sense of anticipation and excitement. While packing and making plans for your time abroad, you might also be saying goodbye to family and friends. Although you may be excited about all of the new things you will see and learn, you might also feel some concern about leaving your home and the familiar environment. You may feel a bit nervous or tired, but overall you are anticipating what is to come.

Crisis Phase

This phase usually begins when you have been in the host culture for more than two months. You may become more irritated and aggressive toward your host culture, as you start to see more rollercoasterstereotypes and nationalism in the culture. You may find it more difficult to do your work. You may feel bored, homesick, sensitive, or even angry. Try not to be discouraged; this is normal. Continue talking with friends and family from home, but be aware that these feelings will pass. Physically, you might develop more headaches, tension, and minor illnesses. Try to stay engaged in your classes and relationships in your host culture and maintain a normal schedule of sleep and activities to avoid stronger feelings of depression and hostility.

Adaptation Phase

The adaptation phase usually begins when you have been in another culture for 3-4 months, but may happen earlier or later. In general, you may feel like you have recovered from your past negative feelings, your work/studies improve, and you feel like you can laugh about your experience. You may start to feel more comfortable in the culture, and even feel like you belong. You may feel like you have adopted a new culture, that it is a part of you, and that you have a new “home.”

Re-Entry Phase

This phase is often overlooked, but happens when you return to your home country. You may feel excited and want to tell other people about your experiences in another culture, but find that not everyone is interested. You may get some criticism from your friends and family. You may feel disconnected from your home culture, as if you have missed out on many things. You may notice