International Students - Tips for Adjusting

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International students, regardless of where they are from, will go through some period of cultural adjustment when they land in the US. This is due to cultural differences – those deep values and beliefs that impact what we view as normal, right or wrong, good or bad – that can cause havoc with our sense of well-being when we are plunged into a new culture. Students who adjust more quickly are the ones who can tolerate discomfort for a time. Here are some strategies for understanding the adjustment process and finding support to help you get through it:

  1. Expect that you will go through some sort of cultural adjustment process - sometimes called culture shock.
  2. Be curious and open-minded. Observe and learn how things are done here. Compare and contrast to how things differ from your home country.
  3. Find a cultural ally you can talk to about what you are going through – someone who can help you better understand local behavior and customs.
  4. Build relationships. Although it is helpful to have friends from your native country - avoid living in a cultural cocoon filled with only people from your country. This will make your adjustment more difficult.
  5. Get involved. Take initiative to make new friends – don’t wait for them to come to you – make the first move.
  6. All work and no play makes for a dull boy (and girl). Find balance in your life – a lesson that will serve you well for a lifetime and make you happier and more productive.
  7. Build relationships – Oh, did I already say that? It’s worth saying again. Students who feel well-adjusted have usually developed a strong web of support – friends they can depend on and who can depend on them.
  8. Need Help? Ask for it. Americans expect that you will speak up and ask for help. There are many resources on campus to help with your adjustment.
  9. Before you arrive, review the Living in Princeton Guide and the For New Students section on the Davis International Center Website.
  10. Check out this video greeting from the Davis IC Leaders. Watch for IO Registration coming in early June.

~Jackie Leighton, Director, Davis International Center, Princeton University, 2017


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Jackie Leighton
Director of the Davis International Center

Jackie Leighton is the Director of the Davis International Center. She has more almost 30 years of experience in international education. Her expertise is in the area of intercultural counseling and programming and immigration regulatory services for international students and scholars.

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