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Diagnosing culture shock

A recurring trend is leading millions of students from all over the world to pack their school bags, say goodbye to their family and friends and wonder off to flock universities in the USA, UK, Australia, China, Germany and other attractive destinations. After landing their target country, many start to develop a very strange sensation which many doctors in their country haven’t been able to give a clear diagnosis of.

If you’ve just arrived in a new land and have been feeling a little confused, dizzy, out of place or awkward, you might be experiencing culture shock. Culture shock as well as reverse culture shock are very common phenomenons faced by many international students while making their dream come true and studying abroad. Culture shock is part of the four stages of cultural adjustment in a new country. Here are some questions to ask yourself while looking for common signs and symptoms to help you diagnose the problem.

Are you distracted?
Overdosing on information is one of the most common symptoms of culture shock and can cause  some serious distraction. Learning about a new place which you've never been to is extremely exciting and thrilling. Tasting new foods, discovering the coolest neighborhoods, getting used to the currency differences or ordering coffee in the spoken language is all a part of that experience. Getting introduced to all of this new information is intensely stimulating and before you know it, you’ve overdosed.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is extremely fun! It is also the cause of travel addiction many wanderers experience, causing them to get on flights to new destinations over and over again. So why are you feeling so weird? Well, living in a constantly distracting reality can be quite exhausting over a long period of time. On the positive side though, once you recognize that your tiredness is just a result of culture shock, you're guaranteed to feel better.
Are you feeling awkward in social situations?

Not knowing what’s the right and wrong way to act in social situations is normal when arriving in a new country. Different cultures have very different social norms and to add on to that, there may also be a language barrier.
Standing out as a foreigner when you first arrive can be fun, but after a few months of trying to integrate, it might get a little annoying to be the strange, different one.
Do you miss your family and friends at home?
Feeling homesick is an integral part of living abroad as well as culture shock. Missing your home will lead you to idealize even the things that you didn't really like and sometimes even stereotype the new culture that you are living in. You’ll probably want to talk to your family and friends way more than you even did while you were at home and before you know if Facetime, Skype and Watsapp will become your best friends.

Don't worry, this is completely normal and happens to a lot of students who move abroad. Once you settle down and find some new friends you'll feel much better.
Do you find yourself obsessing over the culture that you’re in?
Many people choose either one of two approaches when entering a new culture – either become it or block it. In both cases, the result is that you end up obsessing over this new culture, for the good or the bad.
Those who choose to become like “one of them”, will do everything they can to dress, talk and act the way they see locals do. This group usually consists of fast adapters who are not afraid to learn and be influenced by the new culture that they are in.   
On the other end of the spectrum are the deniers – those who aren’t so keen on letting go of who they are or feel that the new influences are a threat to their own identity. These people will normally stigmatize the new place that they are living in, the culture and the way people behave. They will also have a harder time when trying to fit in, and might even find themselves living in the expat bubble, surrounded by people who moved abroad just like them in places that feel more like home.
If you answered positive to three out of the four questions asked above, you have most likely been experiencing culture shock. If this is true, the best tip we could give you is to try to surrender to the feeling of not always having control. Try to embrace the differences in culture and language that the new country you are in has to offer. Only with an open mind, can you really allow yourself to integrate and get the true studying abroad experience.

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Foreign students caught up in the US elections

International students who study in the US have taken a stand in response to the first, second and third presidential debates and the overall feel of the US elections. In just a few hours, broadcasts of the final presidential polls will air in every news channel and the election results will be revealed. Until then, here are a few things you should know about international students in the United States and prospective students and what they think about the presidential election.

The US is the number one study abroad destination for international students, hosting hundreds of thousands of students from countries like China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Brazil, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam and Mexico. 

These students are doing degrees study topics like business and management, engineering, mathematics, computer science, social sciences, education and agriculture. Students move to the US because they know that studying in the US will enhance their academic skills, help their career and in general, improve their lives. International students contribute over $30 billion to the US economy and are a huge asset to the intellectual academic community.   

International students on campus: 

Although they can't vote, international students have been active in the presidential campaigns on campus and off campus. They took part in promoting the candidates on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit and Quora, to influence the opinions of their American peers. They were also encouraged to participate in rallies on campuses across the US campaigns for either the democratic candidate or the republican candidate.  

This year, foreign students made efforts to help American citizens register to vote by providing IT support. Some even provided rides to vote, to make sure everyone has a chance to get their voice heard.  

Many foreign students saw this as a way to support not only their ideology but their interests too. A lot of questions which were relevant to them were raised during the presidential rallies. Many thought that this year's election will determine their fate in their academic life in the US due to potential future immigration restrictions and new foreign policies which the US might adopt, depending on the candidate that wins.

Prospective international students:

Prospective students know the many benefits to studying in America, but just like the international students who are already studying in universities like Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Duke, Trinity, Stanford and more, they are also influenced by this year’s election. 

A research done by FPP EDU Media, surveyed more than 40,000 prospective international students from 118 countries. 60% of these students said that they would have less of an affinity towards studying in the US if Donald Trump was elected, while 3.8% said they wouldn’t want to study in the US if Hilary Clinton won.  

The main root of their concern is the possibility that their rights to student visas, work opportunities and options to stay will be threatened. After Obama created the immigration reform, many international students were happy to find out that they can stay in the United States after they graduate. They now fear that possible immigration restrictions might change the law.  

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With only a few days left for the election, American students abroad are feeling exhausted

With only a few days left for the final results of this year's election, many American students studying around the world are left exhausted. During these crucial past months for America’s future, many found themselves facing obstacles which they normally wouldn’t face back at home.

There are about 2.2 million U.S. citizens overseas eligible to vote in this election. Most of them live in Australia, Germany, the UK, Canada, South Korea, Israel, Mexico, France, Switzerland and Costa Rica. According to the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), 6% of them are between the ages of 18-24, and 17% are between the ages of 25-34. 

With recent encouragements to study abroad in the form of grants and scholarships, many of these millennials are students who are taking part in exchange programs, or completing their Bachelor’s degree, MBA, PhD or MA. Many of their fellow peers back home had a chance to get involved in the Republican or Democratic campaigns on their campuses, but because they live in a foreign country, their experiences have been very different for a number of reasons.

Keeping up with the elections

Getting updates on the elections wasn’t at all hard for most American students living abroad, as long as they had constant access to internet. With YouTube videos from the first, second and third debate between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump on their Facebook feed, many testified that they would constantly hear about the news through their social media accounts (mainly Twitter, Instagram and Facebook).

According to a study done by Pew Research Center, most Americans find that cable TV news is the most useful source for learning about the elections, but most millennials said that social media is their main go-to source. 35% of Americans between ages 18-29 found social media platforms to be most helpful to learn about Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton.

Many American students living abroad have also mentioned that they would prefer watching funny shows rather than watching the conservative TV news channels like CNN, BBC, Fox News, etc. Shows like The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Late Night with Seth Meyers, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert or Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, are all examples of sources that students are getting their updates from as well as entertainment. 

Defending the United States

US citizens who are studying abroad have said that part of the challenge of studying abroad this year has been the responsibility they felt to defend and explain the political situation in the United States. Students say that they get asked about who they are voting for almost everywhere they go, and without meaning to, they have transformed into ambassadors. This pushed many students to make a firm personal choice between the two main candidates, even if they are normally not very personally involved in politics.

Students have also mentioned that with so many controversies and conspiracies about the candidates, it was almost impossible to give satisfying explanations about what’s going on to anyone who isn't familiar with the current political situation in the United States. 

Defending the statements and ideologies of the candidates was a difficult task, especially for those students who are studying in a country that has very different political views on similar matters. Students confess that they felt like they had to either make excuses for the different statements that were made, defend the American political system or condemn either candidates.

Adopting new perspectives

Studying abroad is an eye-opening experience. By getting exposed to different cultures, students were able to form new opinions on foreign affairs as well as adopt local attitudes and opinions of the country they live in. The values which were represented by the candidates this year didn’t always align with values in the countries that the students were living in. 

In the foreign policy debate, the world witnessed Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump show their opinions on different global issues. Along with other topics discussed, they also talked about their perspective on foreign trade (on topics like NAFTA and TPP), countering terrorism, nuclear weapons, relationships with Russia and relations with China. Students who live in countries which are greatly effected by these policies, felt like they were forced to chose sides, and defend either their host country or the US.  

It was greatly felt on their end, that the elections reflect the American society and their personal identities. This caused a strong need to defend their chosen candidates or otherwise condemn the other one.
Elliott Stallion