Essay on First-Year International Student’s Transition Shock

Published: 2021/12/28
Number of words: 1342

Recent demands in globalization, as well as internationalization, have encouraged the urge for cross-border learners’ mobility globally. The influx of students joining colleges based in Canada, the United States of America (USA), and Australia, among others, is explicit. Besides environmental influences, the first-year international students face socio-cultural associated variants that affect their way of life and educational outcome. Culture shock is the most overt challenge that every student will most likely encounter, and as such, a feasible mitigation framework ought to be instituted in order to assist these new entrant international learners in the university. A transition shock can significantly deter one’s ability. By explaining it simply, this experience occurs when one shifts to a new cultural environment, which is completely different. Personal disorientation would then appear to a first-year international student during this occurrence. Based on these descriptions, transition shock cannot be prevented, as these contrasts impacts every person in any society differently. First-year international students are prone to socio-cultural disparities, which can affect their academics; therefore, university staff and faculty should not only emphasize academics in school but also have a feasible framework capable of assisting them to integrate socially and culturally fully in the school environment

Communicating with other students from a different culture is one major challenge that every first-year international student faces. Conversing with people from different cultures can be difficult, and it can be because of the language barrier, problem understanding one another, or just shyness. Some people may even face the accent problem. All these aspects are obstacles contributing to intercultural communication. According to Ting-Toomey and Chung (2012), intercultural communication is crucial, and one should be able to flexible in order to attain knowledge and skills of conversing across cultures. Liu (2011) also adds that language proficiency can bar an international student from communicating with others. Narrating the first-person experience, this author denotes that understanding the colleagues, and teachers were not easy because of his poor English. Moreover, he was unable to even do simple tasks, such as taking the right buses around the town because he could not speak better English. In this sense, the other parties had difficult times comprehending him. Such barriers force a person to shy from interacting with others and even making friends. Also, one will face difficulties in learning the oral English language.

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Even though it is classified under problems, culture shock can be viewed as an opportunity for the students to experience new values and beliefs, and maneuver through social difficulties. For self-determined individuals, they do have initial bewilderment feelings, but culture shock gives them the opportunity to develop socially as human beings (Yang, Zhang, & Sheldon, 2018). Leading on from this view, culture disparity helps them to understand their cultural values and prejudices better, as one is able to experience more cultural values, thereby expanding their scope of thinking and perception. Being minority group in the school, first-year international students are disadvantaged because they have to adopt a new way of life, including dress codes, language, food, and etiquette, and behavior, among others. As Liu (2011) put it, culture shock contributes to homesickness, low confidence, and identity loss, among others, noting that these aspects can prevent one from seeking English improvement beyond the classroom. Therefore, as much as culture shock obscures one from exploring the new environment at the onset, one is able to identify the cultural differences in the long run, and even embrace them. Consequently, this problem advances diversity attitude among the students.

Cultural personality is another obstacle barring first-year international students from interacting freely with others in the school. According to Liu (2011), this problem adversely impacts English speaking progress, and it is most common among Chinese learners. Most western students are extroverted, while those from China are introverted. Therefore, when learning a second language, Chinese students face difficulties in openness and behavior to various social activities. Delving deeper into this cultural fault, most Chinese are affected by traditional Confucian implicitness and modesty values (Liu, 2011). As such, such learners are more likely to observe activities and opt to keep their thoughts to themselves. Introversion also encourages more listening rather than actively participating in the conversation. It is not easy for individuals with this cultural belief to be able to indulge in arguments or express their opinions in the classroom. This feature is not conducive for these groups of learners to progress their English learning capability. Instead, it encourages them to seek comfort zones. For instance, one would easily visit specific places, as well as people with whom he or she is familiar. Generally, cultural personality is a significant barrier, hindering first-year international students from exploring their opportunities fully.

As a recommendation, schools should not only squarely delve in academics but establish pragmatic methods of integrating first-year international students to the social tantrums in the institutions. Mostly, social and cultural integration entails recognizing, comprehending, and assimilating various practices, behaviors, values, and assumptions. According to Ting-Toomey and Chung (2012), the schools should be able to embrace the increased diversity in their premise, arising from the increased international students. The chief task here, therefore, is to ensure that desirable transitions are absorbed while undesirable ones are avoided. Meanwhile, the university faculty and staff should be able to permit flexibility in order to select those values worthy of adoption. This way, students can develop self-concept, including self-efficacy and self-esteem.

Participating in leisure activities and sports can also help an individual during the transition process. Liu (2011) denoted that by listening to English songs and watching English movies help an international student improve language proficiency, which eventually enhances their social interaction. In addition, indulging in sports is another way of enhancing this merit. For example, learning vocabularies related to a specific sport’s activity enhances one’s propensity to understand cross-culture communication. Leading on from this view, sports is a social activity, and as such, a person will be able to interact freely with others while improving diversity skills and knowledge. This method is an explicit tactic of solving introversion emanating from cultural personality.

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Lastly, volunteering and seeking part-time job help in improving a person’s social skills and knowledge. This way, a student will be able to interact with several people and even lower his or her stressors. Besides being busy and earning, a student will be able to interact with different people with diverse speaking accents and styles. Gaining proficiency in the academic cognitive language, as well as improving interpersonal communication skills, are prerequisites to academic success. As a result, a first-year international student will be able to understand the teachings in the classroom, thereby enhancing his or her performance. Overall, working allows one to avoid introversion and be able to take risks and different challenges.

In conclusion, socio-cultural disparities commonly puzzle first-year international students, affecting their academic studies significantly. Indulgence of university faculty and staff is thus crucial in order to enhance the integration of students socially and culturally in the new environment. Some of the major challenges and opportunities baffling first-year international learners include but not limited to communication difficulties, culture shock, and cultural personality. Recommendations of bypassing and handling these obstacles, as discussed above, entail proper university’s framework to integrate students socially and culturally, volunteering and doing part-time jobs, and involving oneself in sports and leisure activities. Generally, all institutions of higher learning should develop a feasible transition framework for internal students, especially the new entrants.


Huessey, T, & Smith, P. (2010). Transitions in higher education. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 47(2), DOI: 10.1080/14703291003718893.

Liu, L. (2011). An international graduate student’s ESL learning experience beyond the classroom. TESL Canada Journal29(1), 77-91.

Ting-Toomey, S., & Chung, L. C. (2012). Understanding intercultural communication (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. Excerpts taken from pp. 93-108.

Yang, Y., Zhang, Y., & Sheldon, K. M. (2018). Self-determined motivation for studying abroad predicts lower culture shock and greater well-being among international students: The mediating role of basic psychological needs satisfaction. International Journal of Intercultural Relations63, 95-104.

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