University is an excellent opportunity to get to know other people. You have the opportunity to meet friends from all different backgrounds and walks of life. However, adapting to this brings with it certain challenges. Culture shock refers to a feeling of disorientation or discomfort when subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.

Our brains are designed to process information quickly and effectively. To help us do that; we unconsciously create mental short-cuts for understanding the world around us. These are automatic, meaning that we do not have to put any thought into them to ensure their occurrence. However, many of these shortcuts are not helpful. Some common examples of which you might recognise include jumping to conclusions and all or nothing thinking .

These thughts proccess may contribute to culture shock in different ways, but may generally look like perceiving differences in others as "strange". Becoming aware of errors in logic, which causes unbalanced thought can be an integral part of good mental health for lots of people.

That's why, catching these errors will be beneficial to help you handle culture shock and recognise that no matter how small, there are positives to be appreciated.

How else can you manage these uncomfortable feelings?

  1. Learn as much about a culture as you can before you make your judgement.
  2. Build support networks as soon as you arrive in university.
  3. Focus on the positive aspects of the new culture (what’s good about it?).
  4. Seek out guidance from similar, like-minded colleagues and friends.
  5. Give yourself time to adapt.
  6. Retain a sense of humour!

You can watch our webinar for managing culture shock. This is from workshop material we have presented to other students going through the exact same thing. Please remember, it’s common to feel this way, especially at the start of your journey. There are strategies you can use to improve your resilience, however, and help you adapt to the new culture and enjoy your adventure!

If you are at risk / suicidal please immediately contact either the crisis liaison mental health team at the University Hospital Limerick (061 301111) or your local hospital, or your GP immediately. 

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