Culture Shock Series

SC Staff Writer

In May 2012, I graduated from Shenyang Normal University (SNU) in China with a Bachelor of Arts degree. I was an English major with a concentration in Secondary Education. I made up my mind to pursue a Master’s degree in America when I was a sophomore, and I succeeded by being admitted to the Secondary Education M. Ed program at ESU.

While I was an English major, I had American literature and culture classes. I had foreign teachers who came from America to teach my English speaking classes. Besides, I had a few American friends who came to SNU to learn Chinese in the summer. I believed that I was well prepared in regard to American traditions and culture. Therefore, when I arrived here and the local people asked me, “do you experience any cultural shock?” I confidently shook my head and said, “No. I was well prepared before I came here, and I do not have any difficulty fitting in at all.”

However, after I have lived in East Stroudsburg for exactly six months, I started to notice that I actually did experience cultural differences. I would not say that I experience any shock because those differences never really shocked me.

Nevertheless, the real problem here is, when people ask me about whether or not I have culture shock and when I think about it, that I am not even sure of what ‘culture shock’ really means.

Does it really mean the feeling of shock? So I looked it up online. On, the definition of culture shock is “the bewilderment and distress experienced by one individual who is suddenly exposed to a new, strange, or foreign social and cultural environment.”

So it really has nothing to do with the feeling of being shocked. Instead, it is the more of an emotional struggle that one has when dealing with a cultural environment other than his own. It is really interesting for me to know.

What fascinates me more during my search is that I found a specific page describing culture shock on a website of the International Student’s Program of Oregon State University. But they call it ‘cultural adjustment’, defined as a process an individual has to go through to be able to work effectively and live comfortably in a place that is new and unfamiliar to them.

Furthermore, there are three main types of cultural adjustment, with culture shock being one of them, listed as follows:

1. Culture Surprise usually occurs during the first few days of one’s visit as they initially become aware of superficial differences. Examples: people dress differently, signs are in a different language, non-verbal behaviors are different.

2. Culture Stress is a fairly short-term response to “stimulus overload.” This occurs when the person begins to respond to the behavior of the “new” culture. Examples: trying to drive a car, going shopping, hearing comments about themselves.

3. Culture Shock is a normal, healthy psychological reaction to the stress of living in a different culture. One can experience feelings of tension and anxiety because they have lost familiar cultural cues. Their actions do not always get them what they want, and their inability to communicate effectively with others is frustrating.

In my Culture Shock Series: My Journey at ESU, I will talk about my personal experiences specifically following the above three stages. I would like to use this series of articles as a mirror for all the international students who came to America just like me. I want to remind them that they are not alone in this journey. We all go through the same obstacles and barriers, and I firmly believe that we will all have a wonderful journey as long as we keep up our pace.

Furthermore, my intention also goes to American students. I would like them to read about my personal experience and to really understand how it feels to live in a foreign country. It is always through communication that the mutual understanding is enhanced. Therefore I want my articles to be the bridge which connects the American students and the international student community at ESU.

However, there is one point that I really would like to stress before I begin my description of all the cultural differences that I experienced here. When I was talking about China, I was only referring to Shenyang Normal University and the city of Shenyang. This is because just like America, China is also a country which is large in size and diverse in regional cultures. In other words, the culture in New York City will never be the same as the Borough of East Stroudsburg. Therefore, I am only making comparisons between the city of Shenyang in China and East Stroudsburg in Pennsylvania. I contend that my dear readers do not make generalizations according to my descriptions.

Now we can begin. In the first episode, I focus more on the ‘culture surprise’ stage. I observed all the differences between college campus culture of Shenyang Normal University and East Stroudsburg University. I will describe the differences from the aspects of academic environment, student finance, student organizations and resources available to students on campus.

Email Yu at: