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Culture shock

As an international student, you have come to study English in a new environment, and for you this may feel strange. As you adjust to your new environment, you may notice some days you feel happy and excited, and other days you feel terrible, uncomfortable and even sick. These feelings are normal when coming to live in another country and are often referred to as ‘culture shock’.

Culture shock is usually experienced in stages:


Just before or upon arriving in Canada, you may feel curious and fascinated by your surroundings. You may be very excited and hopeful for the future, become focused on what is similar between Canada and your home country.

Crisis and disappointment

During the first six months, you may notice that you feel happy one day and sad the next. You can feel disappointed and irritated because you miss your family and friends, and you may feel you have no connections in Canada. Feeling guilty about leaving your family members behind is natural.

Adjustment or recovery

You may feel more confident in your language skills and more comfortable in your surroundings. You will become more involved in the community and focused on how to adjust and get what you need in Canada.

Acceptance and adjustment

You feel more comfortable because you know more people and have become involved with your community. You better understand how to survive in Canada and feel more confident about your decision to move to a new country.

You may experience this same cycle when you return to your home country. You may feel happy at first, then unhappy and uncomfortable, then acceptance and life will go back to how it was originally. Studying in Canada is a life-changing decision that has many rewards, but can also be a difficult experience at the beginning. 

We Can Help

The ELC team wants to do everything it can to help you find what makes you happy and adjust comfortably.

Contact your Student Resources Co‑ordinator to find out what resources are available in your community to help you cope with culture shock. 

For more information, visit the Immigration section of the Government of Canada website.

You can also watch a short video about the experiences of other international students.