Services for International Employees & Scholars

Cultural Adjustment

Moving to a new country often brings culture shock that occurs when you are taken out of a familiar environment and become integrated into a new environment. During the first few weeks of your stay in the United States, many things will happen as you adjust to your new environment and participate in activities at the University of Kansas. There are generally several phases that new international visitors may experience during the period of adjusting to a new culture. Listed below is a general pattern of cross-cultural adjustment. Your own experience might be weaker or stronger based on a variety of personal characteristics and previous life experiences.

Cultural Adjustment Basics

Stage one: Cultural Surprise

Your first few days and weeks in your new community will be filled with observing new things.  These observations may only scratch the surface, but they are the foundation for your first impressions.  You will notice people dress differently, the food and how people eat is different, and non-verbal communication is different. 

Stage two: Cultural Stress

In a short time, the feeling of new and excitement begins to fade away as your cultural experiences become more in-depth.  You will participate in “new” culture activities more often and are forced to respond to the new/ unfamiliar cultural norms and behaviors of people you do not fully understand.  You might feel more comfortable blindly following the actions of others even though the actions do not make sense to you.  If you do question actions, you will most likely hear, “that is just the way things are done.”  Also, constantly speaking a non-native language can be frustrating and can add to your cultural fatigue. 

Stage three: Culture Shock

The stress of living in a new culture wears you down physically and mentally.  As with any stressful situation you will want to either withdraw into yourself or confront the perceived threats (response called “fight or flight”).

You may experience the feeling “homesick” because of the lack of familiar culture norms.  The actions of others around you may not be predictable based on your life experiences.  Also, your normal reactions based on your cultural understanding may not express your desires in the “new” culture.  This inability to communicate may cause anxiety.

Stage four: Cultural Confidence

You will start to become effective and regain your self confidence that you lost in previous stages. In this stage, you are now effective in both your home culture and the “new” culture.


Expect to go through an adjustment period
Coming to a new country often brings about culture shock.  Your period of adjustment might be quick or slow and will depend on your own life experiences.

Explore your surroundings
The KU campus is large and may seem daunting, but soon you will know it very well.  To get started, talk to students, staff and faculty in your departments about the most interesting or best places to visit.

Learn cultural norms
The United States is vast and has many diverse values and norms.  One of the simplest ways to learn these is to watch people’s behavior. 

Be slow to judge
Ask someone who knows the culture to explain your observations.  Always remember to ask “why” people do what they do.  Compare how American culture is similar and different than your own culture and try to share your thoughts.

Go to events where you can meet new people
Creating dynamic friendships with people from different backgrounds will help give you wider insight into American culture.  Check out the campus events, join an organization to share your passion or play sports to meet people with similar interests.

International Calendar

One of the first 12 intensive English programs in the United States
Each semester year, the AEC enrolls about 250 students representing more than 35 countries on six continents.
Start working on your degree now! You can take university classes for credit at the same time you are taking English classes.
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Fulfill a university requirement! Completion of your English proficiency requirements means you have finished your foreign language requirement at the University of Kansas.
We have computers just for you! The AEC has its own computer lab that AEC students can use for free.
We have tutoring just for you! The AEC has an Academic Resource Center where AEC students can get free tutoring from AEC teachers.
We have Conversation Groups just for you! You can practice your English language conversation skills at our AEC Conversation Groups.
Need help? Have a question? The AEC has a team of cross-cultural advisors ready to answer your questions and help you with any problem you are facing.
We are experts at what we do! AEC faculty and administrators have a total of 701 years in International Education.