Conquering Culture Shock

Picture of Cara Simon

I have landed in London! The excitement is real and the nerves are at an all time high. Moving quickly around me, as I slow down the pace with my 50-pound luggage, the city of London never sleeps. I have been in London for exactly one week.  In that short amount of time I have been hit with culture shock, none like I have experienced before, depression, and a new found love for life.

The challenge I find myself facing each day is how will I adjust? New home, New job, New city, and no friends. This is my first time traveling abroad alone and for that reason I was apprehensive about leaving. Luckily, I have the support of my family to intern abroad and although they are not here with me I know they want me to thrive while I am here. Thankfully, Learn International my internship placement company has provided me with helpful information and tips on how to settle into my new student housing.

Picture of an ornate building and traffic in London

Speaking of student housing… That is where a large portion of my nerves set in. Living in a new country has challenged me to re-examine my everyday life. I now live with a roommate and share a bathroom with them and a kitchen with the entire floor. On top of living in a new place, I was sleeping in a new bed. Relying on sleep aids to get me through the night is not fun. After about 6 days I have dropped the sleeping pills and my body has managed to fall asleep on its own. In London the sun rises at 4am and sets around 9:30pm, now I love a long bright day but for the first week I was running on about 4 hours of sleep each night. I would randomly wake up burning up from the hot humid air, forcing myself to sleep with no blankets. When I find myself not getting good sleep I resort to an eye mask. I tend not to put in headphones because I am afraid I won’t hear my alarm. However, to drown out the noise of my flat mate chewing on his chips or microwaved meal, headphones, I decided are a must! After all, living in a successful area will allow me to do successful work.

Challenges are what people need to grow. If I was not being challenged here I would not enjoy it. Although living may be hard to deal with, I know I can get through it. Although I may find myself wandering down the wrong road or wandering lost though a garden I know that it is a challenge and If I can maneuver my way out I will be stronger. Getting lost is a must do thing when exploring any city. I have found some of my favorite places when I have no set agenda. Here in London I try not to stress out too much, the first few days were hard and for the first time I found myself homesick, sad, and on a fine edge of depression.

"Challenges are what people need to grow. If I was not being challenged here I would not enjoy it. Although living may be hard to deal with, I know I can get through it."

My family has been so supportive of me being abroad from the first time when I went to Fiji/New Zealand/Australia, 4 years ago to today. For some reason this trip is different. For starters it is the longest trip I have ever done, but not the longest I have been away from my family. Maybe the fact that I am thousands of miles away from my support system rather than a few hours is the reason I am feeling so home sick. I am alone and I don’t mind being alone. I think this trip has taught me one important thing so far and it is to appreciate my family and my friends because someday they may be gone. Additionally, to the new life I have made in London a life was taken in my family, just three days into my trip. Hearing news like that with my already vulnerable, fragile state of mind was nothing good. My body felt like it was decomposing, I hadn’t adjusted to a good sleep pattern, I had no time to cook a good meal, blisters from walking miles and miles were putting me in pain and with all of this stress my body broke out in a rash (luckily only lasting a day). I wanted to pack up and get out as soon as I could. Instead I cried a little. Well, a lot.

I decided that bad things can happen and I can sit here and cry and dwell on how they could be better or I can live my only life fully and live it to the best of my ability. So I started cooking more, (which I love to do), I decided that I will make it through living with a roommate who is messy, all I need to do is keep clean. I went and got medicine for my blisters and memorized the underground so I don’t find myself lost and panicked at night. Lastly whenever I find myself not at my best, I do something I love. So I quickly typed in fashion and attended a fashion exhibit at the London Design Center. If you’re ever sad, whether it be from traveling, trying something scary, or just because. Try to focus on one positive thing, even if it is only one thing. I noticed that I wasn’t doing that. I was focused on all that I disliked about being here and all that was going wrong. So from this day on I will do what I love. I will travel, I will explore, I will work hard and prove that I belong here. London is simply not ready for what it will teach me, but I am ready to learn from this city.

-Joe Andersen, NAU

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