Beating back culture shock

By Gabriela Ciurcu

Studying at a university abroad in a different language while adapting to a new culture has its components of struggles. The one I considered to be a myth was the so-called “culture shock.”

As an international student from Europe, the culture shock was something I should have expected to experience. I left everything familiar to pursue a degree in Journalism here in the States. 

It is the best decision I could have made as I learned and grew significantly from being in a country culturally opposite from my home.

Hearing about the stages of culture shock, I didn’t want to believe they could impact me, but on my journey of understanding and overcoming them, I realized they are normal. 

The honeymoon stage is, as it sounds, sweet. Having heard about this cheap Californian goodness of burgers, I wanted to have lunch at In-n-Out, even before landing at LAX. 

After experiencing my first disappointment in the States, the fries, the surreal thought of being here quickly surpassed it. Coming outside of In-n-Out, I saw the palm trees, and for my own good, I was too tired to care about the burning sun. 

It was, as Americans say, “a piece of cake,” or so I thought to be in another country. The honeymoon period didn’t last long, and the frustration stage was ready to present itself.

The language barrier and simple tasks took longer and led to exhaustion. Having an accent didn’t help, either. I was frustrated with myself for not speaking perfect English and communicating effectively. 

Feeling out of place became a daily theme and made me want to erase my cultural background. The confusion started to unveil itself. I couldn’t understand why Americans put ice in their water, why they are loud and wear flip-flops daily apart from going to the beach. 

This stage lasted longer than I would have liked it to. Soon everything became more familiar, and I was on my way to acceptance.

I am still in the stage of experiencing and enjoying my new “home.” Even though I have yet to understand American culture, I learned that different is not bad, and adding ice to the water is incredibly smart. 

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