Cross Cultural


There are many reasons why students choose to come to study in the United States. Some of the most common reasons are to obtain a degree, play a sport, to gain professional and academic training, to learn about another culture, or to enhance personal growth. Often it is some combination of these. Some international students know a lot about the United States before arriving while others know much less. Whatever the reasons for coming to the United States, and regardless of how much is known about the culture, nearly all international students go through a period of adjustment.

Common stages of adapting to a new culture

Adaptation to a new culture is a normal process. A number of stages in this process have been identified and are useful as guidelines. However, due to individual differences, not all people experience each stage, and the stages can last different lengths of time for different people.

Some reasons why coming to a new culture can be a challenge

Many factors can make the process of adapting to a new culture challenging. Some common factors include:

Common signs of adaptation stress

It is natural for people living in a different culture to feel sad and lonely at times, and to miss their home culture, friends and family. Sometimes, however, the stress of adapting may reach a level that requires special attention. Common signs of this stress can include:

Ways to help cope with culture adaptation 

There are many things that can help during the adaptation process. Different things help different people and often, more than one approach is useful. Three areas that are most often helpful to address are academic skills, social skills, and adequate emotional support.

Academic skills:
Educational systems and expectations vary from culture to culture. Being unfamiliar with the U.S. system, especially when coupled with the challenges of using a second language, can lead to academic problems. Some ways to overcome these problems include:

Social skills:
While it is important for international students to retain their home country’s cultural identity and beliefs, learning about U.S. culture and becoming familiar with the social customs here can aid in the adaptation process. Ways to do this include:

Emotional support: 
Some ways to address emotional issues include:

It is important to remember that adaptation is a normal process that can take some time and effort.

Positive outcomes

While the process of adaptation can be challenging, it also has many positive aspects. International students who go through this process benefit in terms of achieving personal growth, becoming more flexible and insightful, as well as more adaptable to future experiences. Cultural adaptation typically results in a broader and richer worldview that allows a person to draw from the best parts of different cultures.

Additional Resources

The Counseling Center is always available to provide you with additional resources and help you make an effective transition. For more information come by the 3rd floor of the Student Center (Room 305), call 405-574-1326, or email