Most students, regardless of maturity, disposition, previous experience abroad, or knowledge of the country in which they will be living, experience some degree of culture shock. Culture shock is a term used to describe some of these more pronounced reactions to spending an extended period of time in a culture different from your own. Culture shock can be characterized by periods of frustration, adjustment, and even depression. The worst homesickness often occurs two to three months after students leave home, frequently arriving just in time for the holidays (for fall or academic year students). It is common for students to call or write home during moments of low morale, but not when they are busy and things are going well. Consequently, families often picture a more negative situation than actually exists.
Not everyone will experience culture shock. However if your son or daughter does, it is helpful to be able to recognize when it occurs so you will understand what is really happening. The following breakdown of the four stages of cultural adaptation will help you recognize the process as it happens.