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International students: Ways to cure culture shock and homesickness

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Dealing with culture shock

Leaving home to study in a foreign country can be intimidating. It’s normal to experience culture shock whether it’s the language, accent, food or cultural behaviour that’s outside your comfort zone. It’s worth noting that you are not alone, as many international students experience culture shock. Here are a few tips to help you cope:

1.Remember, you are not alone

not alone


Students around you may be feeling the same sense of detachment and are going through the same transition as you are. Talking to other international students may be a useful outlet to help you feel at ease.

2.Talk it through

talk it through

You will learn that everyone on campus is very friendly and helpful. Talking to a staff member or a friend can help you cope with your emotions better and create the confidence you need to face the transition between cultures.

3.Embrace your downtime


Take time out to absorb and reflect on your experience and your time here. Take care of yourself, engage in social activities and exercise as these help if you are feeling low.

4.Make an effort to make new friends

new friends

It is important that you engage with other students, both international and local. Don’t be hesitant as everyone is trying to make friends and you’ll find most people are open for a chat if you are brave enough to initiate the conversation.

Dealing with homesickness


Leaving family and friends behind can be a very critical time for international students. Homesickness is common and it may affect everyone differently. The arrival and orientation period is a rollercoaster of emotions, as you are trying to juggle so many things at once such as settling in, making friends, getting to know the place and going to new classes. It is possible that in between all this, you may feel sad or alienated with no one to talk to. It is important to remind yourself that every student at some point has had to go through this transition and you will get through it, with these helpful tips.

1.Find a balance


It’s natural to reach out to your parents or friends at home for support, but remember that you also have friends here. If you spend too much time talking to your parents or friends at home, you may be missing out on socialising here and this might be causing you dependency issues.

2.Put yourself out there

out there

Make it a point to leave your room and make conversation with students in your accommodation or in your class. It may feel safer staying in your room but if you never try and experience the world outside your room, you will find it hard to cope with homesickness. Invite friends for coffee or food and go to events organised by the university to meet people. Remember that everyone is new and trying to make friends.

3.Join a club or society

chinese society

Find a hobby or activity that brings consistency to your life. Create a blog, take pictures, join the gym or any of the 200 clubs and societies at Queen’s that catches your interest.

4.Make plans

dinner plans

Fill up your weekend with plans, whether it’s a dinner party with friends or a day out exploring Belfast.

If you find yourself struggling to settle in, don’t hesitate to use the support services at Queen’s. The University and Students’ Union has a wide range of outlets, including the Student Wellbeing Service in the Student Centre, and Advice SU based in the Students’ Union.

Tuba Aisha Sharif
BSc Business Economics