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Culture Shock

Culture shock can be common for those experiencing a new culture for the first time. You may notice differences between your new environment and what you were used to previously. This may include the way people speak, dress and behave. You may also encounter changes in food choice and social activities. As you manage this period of transition, you may experience culture shock – in that you feel disorientated and confused by the new set of rules and experiences you are part of.  

However, don’t worry – if you do struggle, this is normal and won’t last for a long time. Other students, even those moving from other parts of the UK, may feel the same. There are many things you can do to alleviate these feelings, helping you to successfully adapt to a happy life in the UK. 

Preparation of moving to the UK

Preparing for your life in the UK can help remove some elements of the unknown when moving to a new country. Do some research, including what the local area is like, and how to ensure your transition to the UK is safe and enjoyable. 

You can also prepare for life in the UK by: 

  • Accessing and completing Flying Start, our pre-arrival orientation module 
  • Make sure you read and engage with all pre-arrival content and activities, including emails, webinars, and other offers of support 
  • Try to pre-arrange key aspects of your transition in advance of travel, including accommodation (both short and long-term, dependents and their access to education, and ensuring you have sufficient finances in place to engage fully with life in the UK 

Keep in touch

Another method of alleviating culture shock is to keep in touch with home. This may include regular calls with family and friends from home. You can use the university’s free wi-fi to make online video calls or send emails. However, remember to balance the need to engage in your new life whilst retaining that contact with home. You may also find it is useful to bring photographs or other mementos from home with you to the UK. These can be placed around your room and can cheer you up if you miss life at home. 

It may also help to find shops in the area which sell food and drink similar to what you would see at home. Sunderland has a range of large supermarkets which stock international goods, in addition to smaller supermarkets across the city specialising in the food from specific parts of the world.  

Peer Support

Being supported by friends is a great way to minimise the effects of culture shock. You will have many opportunities at university to make new friends from around the world. When speaking with others, you will quickly realise that you are not alone in experiencing the challenges of adapting to a new culture, and it is normal to have a period of acclimatisation before you feel totally comfortable in a new place.  

Why not get involved in a society via the Student Union – this could be trying something entirely new, or joining in with something you’re familiar with, which may help a little with homesickness. Societies have regular meet-ups and can be a great way to meet new people. 

Team Sunderland also offers a range of sporting opportunities for students. You can join in casually, learn a new sport and make friends – or participate on a more competitive basis, competing across the UK in your chosen sport or activity. If competitive sport isn’t your thing, the on-campus gym will help you stay active, which is great for physical fitness and wellbeing. 

In 2022 the university launched the Umii app. This is a social media app entirely based within the university, matching individuals based on shared interests and hobbies. The app can be downloaded on the android or apple store and is entirely free to use. Students also find the University of Sunderland Official Freshers Facebook group useful. This covers upcoming events, invites to other groups focusing on specific programmes, or accommodation enquiries. You can join the Facebook group before you arrive, so it is a great way to start getting involved before you travel to the UK. 

Finally, it is strongly encouraged that you make every effort to arrive in the UK prior to your course start date. Not only does this minimise any impact on your academic studies, but ensures you’re here for all of the great induction week activities taking place across the campus and the city.    

Support for you

A new environment can be a lot to take in. Whilst the tips above are intended to help alleviate some of the pressures of culture shock, you may still like to talk to somebody. 

International Student Support have a dedicated Welfare Advisor who is available to meet on a one to one basis to provide advice. She can also link you to various other support services both within the university and in the local community. Every week there are regular drop ins. These fall on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon. 

You can also get in touch by visiting The Gateway or through Compass.

The Wellbeing team also have a dedicated webpage for international students here.