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Dealing with Culture Shock

By KristinaRLC 12 Feb 2024

This article has been created with the Student Wellbeing team and includes advice, guidance and links to support that you can access through the University. 

What is Culture Shock?

Culture shock is a reaction to a culture and environment that is different from your own.​ This is perfectly normal and is felt by many students who are adjusting to life in Wales. 

You may experience health problems such as headaches or stomach aches, or find it difficult to sleep, concentrate and focus on your studies. Some people also find that they become more irritable or emotional which can increase feelings of anxiety.

There are many elements that contribute to the feelings of culture shock, including:

  • Social roles: such as the way in which people interact with one another​.
  • Rules of behaviour: for example time keeping and queuing​.

  • Academic expectations: different methods of teaching and learning​.

  • Language: such as coping with regional accents​.

  • Climate: the British weather can be very unpredictable​. 

  • Food: you may find British food quite bland and boring. 

What can you do?

1. Find ways to connect through familiar food and activities that remind you of home

Within the Residence Life Team, we have many RLAs who are international students and have also had to make a huge adjustment to living in Cardiff. On our website, we have many articles written by RLAs about their experiences, as well as suggestions for local shops and tips that may help with managing the above from a student's perspective. 

You can access all of these here, but below are some key articles to take a look at:

Welsh Weather from an international student to international students. 

Diary of an International Student from India

Calling freshers from Hong Kong: How do you adapt to Cardiff life?

Embracing Cardiff University as an International Student: Bridging Cultures from Africa

2. Make your house a home 

It can be hard to live in a brand new room, let alone a whole new country. Having familiar things around you that have personal meaning, such as photographs and ornaments, can help to create a safe space for you in your immediate home. 

Below are a few suggestions of how you can do this:

3. Build connections

Being away from home for the first time can be a daunting experience as you learn to adjust to a new culture alongside your studies, and we understand that it can feel quite isolating at times.

Peer support can be extremely helpful when adjusting to life in a new place. Attending events and support groups with students that share the same feelings as you, or the same culture, can be a great way to help manage the feelings of culture shock.

Below are a few ways that you can access support, including events that specifically celebrate a range of cultures and support international students from all across the world. 

  • Residence Life Events: We have a dedicated team of Residence Life Assistants that create and run events to celebrate cultural holidays. Our events are all free to attend for Cardiff University students living in halls of residence, and take place Monday-Thursday between 6-9pm, and on weekends between 12-8pm. These are a great way to meet students living in your halls that share your culture and learn about different cultures, too!  To see what events we have coming up, keep checking our website here.
a woman sitting on a cutting board with a cake
Students enjoying a henna workshop at our Diwali Celebration this year - an example of one of many events celebrating cultural events and holidays!

Further Support

As well as attending events and meeting fellow students, there is a range of support available to you throughout the university to help with your transition to life in Cardiff and beyond. 

  • If you experience problems during your time at university, no matter how big or small the issue, the Student Health and Wellbeing team are here to help you with counselling and wellbeing appointments, drop-ins and more. 
  • Events for International Students: A range of tailored events and workshops are held specifically for international students in order to help with your career development and job hunting.
  • The Students’ Union provides a free, confidential and independent advice service for students at Cardiff University.

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KristinaRLC Residence Life Coordinator for Uni Hall & Cartwright!
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