#Columbia Business School Orientation

Culture Shock for Exchange Students

Columbia Business School – Culture Shock

International student orientation

Israel – Student came from Israel to study journalism. He says he remembers being in shock. He was sitting in the orientation. He knew his name and where he was living, but everything else was in a fog. It’s difference for everyone. But it includes frustration, anxiety, lonliness, and being left out. He began to really hate Americans for a couple of months. He began hanging out with the exchange students, and really wanted to go home. He wasn’t alone. The exchange students say, 38% of them, feel extreme homesickness.

He says that those in the audience may still be in love with the US. That’s phase one. You’ll be SO HAPPY… at first. He had worked for years on his application and there was nothing more that he’d wanted.

But every good thing must come to an end. Phase 2 is the “what am I doing here” phase. That was when he and “Miss America” had a big fight. Everything became a big fight. The worst was that he couldn’t speak. He didn’t have the words to express yourself the way you want. He’d been a journalist, making a living with his words. It was his identity. He couldn’t be wise or funny.

He didn’t understand uptown or downtown. He kept getting in the wrong station. Food was a problem. Money made no sense. Why is the dime smaller than the nickle? The units of measurements were not metric. Is 20 centigrade hot or cold? And the Americans seemed happy all the time. They seemed so plastic. Everyone will say everything was amazing. He kept hearing “Let’s meet sometime.” And then I’d never hear from theme again. He felt everyone was fake. Then he began to think they were just all terrible, a reverse Halo effect. He hated their clothing and everything. He really wanted to go home.

He could see that there were little groups forming where related ethnic groups began hanging with one another. This does not help it go faster.

Then there’s the third phase. This is “where’s the happy hour?” This is where you get adjusted and adapt. You need to understand the American phrase book. “How are you doing?” Is not a question. This is just hello. “Let’s have lunch sometime.” Is “I’m just being polite.” And “I have to think about it.” is No. When a professor says: “You might want to think about it.” Means you want to do it now. When a professor returns a paper and says it is interesting. It means it is terrible. You need to downgrade everything two notches.

Once he was able to understand this, he was able to exist better.

It’s all culture. In his culture, everyone is direct. It’s just the way he was raised.

How long does it last? 26% said one month. Slide says culture shock, for most people, lasts one semester.


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