Living and working away from home can take some time to get used to. Anticipating changes, difficulties and challenges can minimize its impact. Adjusting is the key. Below you will find different satges in which adjustment comes about.
Adjustment unfolds in stages:
The "Honeymoon" Stage
The first few weeks in your own, new place and the new city will be very exciting. Everything will be new and interesting, and you will likely be so busy getting settled and starting work that you may hardly notice that you miss your family and your familiar set-up.
When you face the realities of the new set-up, you might feel irritable, lonely, depressed, confused, may start to re-think this move and wonder why you did it. Sometimes you may feel hostile toward the local people and their way of doing things, and even trivial issues may cause hostility to flare. Local peculiarities might make you irritable, make you grumble or crib often and compare it your familiar set-up. Homesickness starts to become a real issue.
Beginning resolution stage
As you continue to struggle with homesickness, slowly, in time, you will come to better understand your new environment and will find that you are adjusting to your new set up. You will experience less frequent feelings of irritability (if not complete resolution) and will start being proactive about making new friends, exploring the where and what of the new city and start working your way through your new organization - iits pros as well as cons.
Effective functioning stage - Integration and Acceptance
Finally, you will find that you will have, at least on some level, started to consider your new set-up, your home. You will have made friends, reconciled and worked your way through the challenging bits of living away from home and old friends and will feel more accepted by your new set-up.
The length and intensity of each stage depends upon the individual, and the stages may even overlap but no one escapes it completely. The important thing to remember is that you are not the only one experiencing these feelings. Many others before you have gone through it, and there are others all around you who are dealing with these adjustments.
Starting life all over again
Basic things that people associate with familiarity, comfort, and routine, such as a place to live and food, are unfamiliar and new to you. You may have problems with eating, sleeping and other normal daily activities, especially in the beginning.
Living and working in a new place for the first time, will involve financial management - figuring out how much to spend, on what to spend, how much to save, etc. Also, if you are finding a place to live with another person, issues of partnering on rent, deposit and other payments as well as getting familiar with lease agreement formalities and the like, will need to be figured out beforehand.
New city, climate, eating out in the initial months, can cause health problems, which may add to feelings of loneliness, frustration, and overall stress.
Adjusting to living and traveling alone, figuring out a safe area to have a place of your own, and working out safe timings, can all become relevant issues - more so for women.
Separation from family and natural support system
You naturally worry about the well being of your family, relatives and friends. You will miss them. You may express homesickness in a variety of ways, such as becoming sad and crying a lot, worrying, or denying the homesickness and keeping yourself busy. You may also be bothered by guilt that you are losing touch with your family and home, as you get busy.
Social isolation and difficulty establishing friendships
You may find it difficult to mingle and get comfortable. You may find yourself sticking to people only from your background or culture or you may feel isolated from the larger group. Research into cultural adaptation of any kind, suggests that people who make satisfactory contacts with local people seem to be more satisfied with their experience and overall adaptation.
Reluctance to participate in discussions or mingle in groups
Due to lack of confidence or poor language skills, small group seminars may be particularly anxiety-provoking for you; you may think that you cannot contribute to the group and as a result, you may feel judged by your peers. Also, you may feel uncomfortable asking questions or asking for help or expressing your ideas.
Stereotyping and discrimination
You may come across some people who may actively discriminate against you or who look at you through a typical stereotype coming from popular media or rumors and may try to stay away from you as a result of this misinformation.
Psychological discomfort and low self-confidence
You may feel sad, anxious, frustrated, lonely, misunderstood, stressed out, homesick. Also, you may have psychosomatic symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches and general fatigue.
For some, the stress may reach crisis levels, especially in the first six months of your stay in a new set-up. Because adjustment to a new set-up takes up so much emotional energy, you may feel depleted and feel like you no longer have the confidence to do the things you used to. You may find yourself changing or slowly lacking in self-confidence - which was never the case before.
What you can DO to help yourself
While surviving culture shock is largely a matter of developing the right attitude and the right expectations, there are a few practical things you can do to help yourself
-Make sure you know what to expect before you arrive. Read more about the city, the culture, potential residential areas and other things before you get there. This will help you orient yourself physically and mentally when you arrive in the city.
-Find some time to walk around your new neighborhood. This might help you develop a sense of home as you find the local stores, parks, activity centers, and so on. Observe and Learn.
-Talk to other new comers to put your experience into perspective. See people. Don't withdraw. Going out and socializing will distract you from your troubles. Remind yourself that it takes time to adjust to a new situation.
-Do the things you did at home to cheer up (restaurants, movies, playing a sport, concerts).
-Learn the basics of the local language this can be a crucial key in gaining acceptance and indeed feeling comfortable in a new set-up. Even if you think you'll never have time to learn the local language, working at it for an hour or two a week will make you feel better about yourself.
-Remember your strengths. Take risks and speak out, mingle - in order to overcome the nervousness. Don't wait for others to take the effort and come forward. Once you make the effort and open up, you will see that it'll put others at ease and help them come forward.
-Reach out to the locals and ask them about how it works there - culture, transport, language, events in the city, etc. Observations have shown that local people enjoy talking or sharing about their culture and willingly open up to people who are interested and enquire about this. Talk about your culture. All this could become an important cultural exchange and a conversation that can lead to not just better adjustment in figuring your way through things, but also bringing about new friendships and support.
-Take care of your health. You can use the gym facilities at your work place or enroll in a gym in your area, or just walk/run on campus. Studies have shown that, as a result of physical exercise, our brains produce chemicals that make us feel more energetic and satisfied.
-Keep a journal. Putting your thoughts down may help you unload after a stressful or even highly successful day. Moreover, the journal is private.
-Keep in touch with family and friends and make sure that reach out to them when you need them -don't let it go especially with old friends. All it takes is a short email, phone call or text message these days!
Knowing more about what you can expect in your new set-up and how you could feel in such a situation can help you mentally prepare yourself for the challenge and the excitement of living away from home, in a new set-up, for the first time.