International Students and Culture Shock

Essay by domikCollege, UndergraduateB+, March 2005

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For my sociology research project I have explored culture shock, "the impact of moving from a familiar culture to one which is unfamiliar," (UKCOSA 2003:1) by analyzing sociological research on this topic and by conducting observational research within the Trinity university campus. I propose that culture shock arises from a failure in the transmission of symbols from one individual to another when said individual enters the latter's culture which is unfamiliar to him/her. Culture shock, therefore, is related to social groups and the way they interact rather than solely the individual's confined emotions.

Before we look into the sociological theories that explain and, consequently, provide solutions for culture shock, we must analyze the problems encountered by international students abroad. The results on previous research conducted by sociologists identify a series of obstacles that prevent sojourners from blending in easily and relating to their new surroundings. Sociologists Schreier and Abramovitch (1996) studied international students abroad in Israel and found that the most recurring problems were "adjusting to life in Israel (28.2%),

difficulty in finding accommodation (17.5%), study problems (16.5%), homesickness (15.5%) and financial stress (50%)" (Bochner and Furnham 1986: 154). Schreier's and Abramovitch's research concludes that financial stress represents the greatest problem in adjusting to a new culture, and it is followed by adjusting to a new life. The authors of the book The Psychology of Culture Shock found that most of the sojourner's obstacles arise when he/she attempts to establish interpersonal and intergroup relations. They argue that "overseas students face four types of problems: (...) as student sojourners they experience a range of difficulties that are common to other cross-cultural travelers, such as insufficient linguistic and cultural skills, prejudice, discrimination, homesickness and loneliness. They also face pressures associated with the role of "foreign ambassador" in their interactions with host culture...