Cultural dissonance refers to a feeling of disharmony, discord and discomfort stemming from cultural inconsistencies and differences, which are inexplicable or unanticipated. Consequently, many people are affected since they find it difficult to acclimatize in new working or learning environment (Marginson 2014). In addition, it may cause massive and negative impacts such as poor development of a child and academic accomplishments among international students. Various researches have indicated that different features of culture have been associated with challenges in academics in learning institutions (Gielen, Fish and Draguns eds. 2012). Some of these include perceptions of space and time, beliefs and values, family roles and structures, and language. Furthermore, other issues such as socialization, interaction, communication styles and learning styles create cultural dissonance, which has a significant effect on learning.
Cultural Dissonance Experience
The topic has helped me to reflect on a story when I was a victim of cultural dissonance as an international student in Australia. My miseries started during the application process when I was required to undertake several exams before I was even admitted to the university. I was also forced to complete puzzling online application system, which needed my original academic certificates. I was also obliged to send other documents to Australia. Additionally, I was forced to wait for long before I could get a response from the universitys management. Consequently, the application process was a source of distress (Volet and Ang 2012).
After I was successfully admitted to the learning institution, reality dawned on me how Australian learning and social culture differed greatly from my home country. Firstly, I suffered from food shock since food in the new country was unfamiliar to me. I did not like the local food, which affected my well-being for a short period. Moreover, I experienced alienation and isolation because the culture of the Australian university did not emphasize on social interaction as compared to my home country. Ultimately, I became lonely before I could make a few friends. Similarly, I suffered from homesickness, diverse cultural beliefs and norms. I was not used to sharing a room with fellow classmates especially strangers. Moreover, most of my roommates had inadequate social skills, which made it difficult to interact with them. Before I could acclimatize in the new settings, I had suffered from feelings of anxiety, surprise and confusion. Meanwhile, I developed a feeling of loss of my social life as well as a sense of deprivation due to cultural shock. Since the Australian culture was unfamiliar to me, it became difficult to adjust to a new setting (Lee and Ciftci 2014).
In terms of academic, I was shocked to realize that the hours of schooling in Australia were exceedingly more than our home country. This is about more than half of the total time that a student in my home country spends in their daily academic work. Moreover, I was fascinated with the kind of emphasis that lectures put on the integrity of academic work. I witnessed a colleague who was failed exams because of plagiarism. I also learnt that the university also expel students who engage in exam cheating and plagiarism (Rice, Choi, Zhang, Morero and Anderson 2012). Consequently, I took a lot of time before I could acclimatize in the new academic setting. I was also performing poorly in my academic due to stringent standards and measures introduced in the university.
Measures undertaken to overcome these challenges
In order to overcome these challenges, I initiated a number of measures that would help me to adjust to the new environment as soon as possible. First, I decided to seek help from the authorities in the university. Secondly, I decided to form a group of discussion, which help to discuss some of the challenges experienced by international students. Furthermore, the university had established student support services, especially for learners from abroad. Therefore, I acquired social support and orientation on the Australian cultures. Most of the lecturers and fellow students were sensitized on how to handle international students. Luckily, this played a major role in helping me to handle cultural differences between Australian culture and my own culture (Sha’ked and Rokach eds. 2015).
From this experience, I learnt a number of lessons. First, international students should understand that cultural dissonance is real hence they must seek assistance whenever there is any problem. Moreover, they should avoid segregating themselves from the rest of the population because this would create more miseries. Significantly, I learnt that it is essential to acquire awareness on how to study in different cultural background prior to joining such institutions (Sundberg 2013). This helps to establish appropriate academic skills that facilitate effective learning. On the other hand, leaners intending to study in different cultural settings should know that they must be socially integrated in the university or class. Furthermore, since there must be an academic and social change in Australia, it is good for international students to be ready in advance by expecting what they might be engaged with regard to a new culture. In so doing, they would be able to understand the learning institution, city and country prior to their arrival (Gladding 2012).
Another crucial lesson I learnt is that international students must be engaged in social functions organized by the learning institution. This helps to create social networks and build language skills as well as familiarizing with new academic settings. Similarly, I learnt that international students should be ready and open to establish association with instructors and advisors (Yakunina, Weigold, Weigold, Hercegovac and Elsayed 2013). Furthermore, they must know the cultural differences and similarities between them and schoolmates, which can play a major part in establishing more accurate expectations. Lastly, the students should understand when and how to let a particular issue to go which minimizes stress and homesickness as well as safeguard their health (Wei, et al 2012). By letting some of the issues go, a student would be able to avoid stress and confusion. In fact, some of the concerns may not be too severe for them.
Gielen, U.P., Fish, J.M. and Draguns, J.G. eds., 2012. Handbook of culture, therapy, and healing. Routledge.
Gladding, S.T., 2012. Counseling: A comprehensive profession. Pearson Higher Ed.
Lee, J.Y. and Ciftci, A., 2014. Asian international students socio-cultural adaptation: Influence of multicultural personality, assertiveness, academic self-efficacy, and social support. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 38, pp.97-105.
Marginson, S., 2014. Student self-formation in international education. Journal of Studies in International Education, 18(1), pp.6-22.
Rice, K.G., Choi, C.C., Zhang, Y., Morero, Y.I. and Anderson, D., 2012. Self-critical perfectionism, acculturative stress, and depression among international students. The Counseling Psychologist, 40(4), pp.575-600.
Sha’ked, A. and Rokach, A. eds., 2015. Addressing Loneliness: Coping, Prevention and Clinical Interventions (Vol. 1). Psychology Press.
Sundberg, N.D., 2013. Cross-cultural counseling and psychotherapy: A research overview. Crosscultural counseling and psychotherapy, pp.28-62.
Volet, S.E. and Ang, G., 2012. Culturally mixed groups on international campuses: An opportunity for inter-cultural learning. Higher education research & development, 31(1), pp.21-37.
Wei, M., Liao, K.Y.H., Heppner, P.P., Chao, R.C.L. and Ku, T.Y., 2012. Forbearance coping, identification with heritage culture, acculturative stress, and psychological distress among Chinese international students. Journal of counseling psychology, 59(1), p.97.
Yakunina, E.S., Weigold, I.K., Weigold, A., Hercegovac, S. and Elsayed, N., 2013. International students’ personal and multicultural strengths: Reducing acculturative stress and promoting adjustment. Journal of Counseling & Development, 91(2), pp.216-223.