Recent graduate Ahmad Mehmood hasn’t seen his family in two years.
As a former BGSU international student from India, who just completed his masters in technology management, Mehmood has a deeper understanding than most of what culture shock feels like.
Culture shock occurs when people are introduced to an unfamiliar place or way of life and struggle to adjust, according to International Student, a resource page for students looking to study outside of their home countries.
Students like Mehmood who come to the U.S. to study often face culture shock while acclimating to their new environment. From instances when they cannot physically digest some of the new country’s food to language barriers in and out of the classroom, there are many obstacles for international students.
A major obstacle regardless of what country students choose to study in is homesickness. Mehmood said the distance from his family was too much for him to handle as a first-year masters student, and after just four months in Bowling Green, he had to fly home.
“I spent $1,500 to be home for 15 days,” he said.
The emotional and financial cost of missing home can affect international students’ studies. Some symptoms of culture shock include:
Sadness or depression
Insomnia or excessive sleep
Illness or reappearance of chronic health issues
Anxiety and depression may lead to poor academic performance, while the cost of visiting home can impact a student’s means of paying for tuition or other expenses.
Ehab Elmorsy, a doctoral student studying higher education who is originally from Egypt but has been studying in the U.S. for over five years, said to leave behind one’s family, friends and job isn’t easy.
“I’ve been there before. … It takes a lot of patience to persevere and a lot of courage,” he said.
Elmorsy began his American education at a historically black college in North Carolina. His transition from North Carolina to Ohio showed him that the subjects, academic approaches and even the food was different from one state to another.
“To come to Ohio and leave my comfort zone in North Carolina was another challenge,” he said.
The friends Elmorsy connected with made a difference in his adjustment. He met another Egyptian student, who invited him over and cooked an Egyptian meal for him, and that connection brought Elmorsy a sense of belonging. At BGSU, his interactions with Muslim Students Association has made him feel unified with other students from outside the U.S.
Elmorsy’s advice for international students who are new to BGSU is to keep preserving.
“Be patient with yourself; take one step at a time,” he said.
And for BGSU students interacting with their international classmates, Elmorsy offers this advice: “Be kind, smile to people” because everyone has their own story.
Advising and support for international students are available through BGSU International Programs and Partnerships.