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Cultural Adjustment

It can be challenging for any student to balance the academic workload at Babson while trying to maintain an active social life and possibly even working part time on or off-campus.

For many students who attend Babson, this is the first time they have been exposed to the rigors of college life. This may be the first time a student is leaving his or her home and living independently.

This is compounded when the individual is also being exposed to the U.S. culture and U.S. classroom culture. The cultural adjustment program can take several months and may cause additional stress and fatigue to students. Taking every opportunity to learn about and experience your new environment can ease the process of cultural adjustment. Learning about the host culture, taking initiative in building relationships, understanding the norms and expectations of the academic or work environment, as well as familiarizing oneself with the normal stages of culture shock are all part of the knowledge that can lead to assimilation and balance.

This section offers you an introduction to the U.S. American culture as well as the cultural adjustment process. The ISSS team is part of the support network available to all international students and scholars at Babson College, so please contact us to discuss issues relating to adjustment to the U.S.

Culture Shock

The discomfort experienced while adjusting to life in a culture different from one’s own

Symptoms

  • Strain – due to having to make so very many psychological adaptations without any sort of respite
  • Sense of loss and feelings of deprivation – regarding the status, friends possessions, etc. to which you had become accustomed and feel you are due, but no longer have
  • Rejection – feeling that you are rejected by members of the new culture and/or you are rejecting members of the new culture
  • Confusion – in roles, expectations, values, feelings, and self-identity
  • Surprise, anxiety and indignation – after becoming aware of the many cultural differences that exist between your home and the host cultures
  • Feelings of inadequacy – due to fear of not being able to succeed in the new culture

Art of Empathy

The practice of empathy can be seen as a three-stage process
  • Recognize that the other person does, in fact, have a different point of view. He or she is looking at the situation through his or her own unique filter of experiences, biases, and values. This is the easiest part of the empathy process because it is so obvious and because it is a rational, logical and intellectual step.
  • Accept the idea that it is all right for another person and this one in particular, to have a viewpoint that is different from yours. Most people find this much more difficult stage of the empathy process. Often when we find that another person has a different viewpoint, our impulse is to ‘get it shaped up.’
    Note that this second step doesn’t mean adopting, or even approving of, the specific opinion another person has, only accepting the idea that it is all right for that person to be unique and have a different set of experiences from those you have.
  • The final step in the practice of empathy might be expressed. “I really want to understand your point of view – not judge it, shape it up, argue with it or endorse it – I just want to understand.” If that is your attitude, the way that you are feeling about the relationship and the discussion, then it will not be necessary to verbalize that attitude. It will be apparent in your behavior.
Adapted from L. Robert Kohls