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Preparing to adjust to a new culture

Brave international English learners,

Congratulations; you are so close to starting your new journey! Right now you must feel excited and nervous. You are not alone! Many things will be different: language and classrooms, of course—but also food, transportation, weather, scenery and the way people greet and engage with each other. This period of adjustment is often called 'culture shock'. There are things you can do before you arrive to make your adjustment easier.

  • Before you arrive
    • Learn about your destination and its people.
    • Read a local news website on a regular basis:
    • Identify/write three to five things:
      • You are most looking forward to about studying in Canada.
      • That currently worry you most about coming to Canada.
      • You believe you will miss most from home when you are in Canada.
      • (People, places, activities, etc.) you believe you will miss least from home.
    • Think about what your greatest challenge will be, and what type of support will help you overcome your challenge.
  • Once you arrive in Canada
    • Observe what people do when they meet or greet other people.
    • Pay attention to what you see, hear and smell in your new environment.
    • Attend as many cultural events as you have time for.
    • Interact with the locals as often as possible.
    • Ask questions about things you find confusing, interesting or challenging.
    • Speak to other students and teachers about how you feel.
    • Access Keep.me SAFE, a student support program, at any time by:
      • Calling 1.844.451.9700.
      • Chatting online on the Keep.me SAFE website.
      • Downloading the My SSP App from either the Apple App Store or Google Play.
  • As time passes
    • Be willing to move outside your comfort zone and take risks!
    • Observe what is happening around you when you have a strong negative emotional reaction to a person or event, and try to identify why you reacted the way you did.
    • Recognize that things are often unclear or ambiguous when you learn about another culture.
    • Be patient with yourself as you develop your new skills.
    • Be patient with others, too. Give people the benefit of the doubt when something confuses or frustrates you.

    “Adjustment is accompanied by feelings of satisfaction and success at being able to handle things better than they could previously. For many students, it brings a sense of independence and emotional confidence that may have been absent just a few weeks before" (Duke, 2014, p. 112). 


  • From What's up with culture?, part of the University of the Pacific's On-line Cultural Training Resource for Study Abroad, and Duke, S.T. (2014). Preparing to Study Abroad. Learning to Cross Cultures. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus. (Quoting directly from p. 110-112).
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