Adjusting to life in New York and at NYU can be a challenge. The city itself can be overwhelming--more so when you’re new. Know that you’re not alone. Students from both within and outside of the US can feel the stress of adjusting to New York. Keep these resources in mind so you can grow as you move through your transition to NYU.

Stages of Adjusting

When you enter a new culture, because the rules and expectations have changed, it is common to feel emotions like surprise, confusion, tension, fatigue, frustration, aggression, and embarrassment. Any of these reactions is a normal part of entering a new culture or a new life environment.

The U Curve

The U Curve is a cultural adjustment model that was first introduced by sociologist Sverre Lysgaard in 1955, but it has been further developed by other scholars during the following decades. This is a visual representation of what can happen when a person starts to live in another culture, encountering a new or unfamiliar way of life or set of attitudes--sometimes known as culture shock, culture stress, or culture transition. There can be a range of emotions in this process, including confusion, frustration, anxiety, fatigue, and disorientation. The U Curve offers a somewhat simplified illustration of things, but can help us get a clearer understanding of what’s happening during this transition.

Honeymoon

During the honeymoon, you may feel excited, stimulated, and curious. Differences feel interesting, energizing, and appealing. You are entering into something you have hoped, worked, and planned for, and you are full of positive emotions as you do so!

“Hard Times”

Sooner or later, you will enter the downhill slope of “Hard Times.” It comes when cultural differences cause feelings such as frustration, misunderstanding, confusion, tension, embarrassment, inadequacy, and isolation. This is a crucial, inevitable transition – but it often can come as a surprise. It can happen a few months after arrival -- or much sooner than that, even within the first few days or hours! But eventually, it will happen. Don’t worry, though; it is a normal part of adjusting to life in your new environment.

Hostility

Hostility is a time of transition; it is also called Fight or Flight. For some people, hostility is turned outward as they become negative and critical of those around them in the new environment. For others, hostility is turned inward as they become depressed, anxious, regretful or hopeless in the new environment. In either case, your attitude and reaction during this stage can make all the difference, leading you in one of two ways:

  1. You can grow as you move through Culture Shock/Transition by observing, listening, initiating and asking questions. Key to this is an attitude of openness, acceptance, trust and adaptability. This will lead you to growth, accepting differences and eventually feeling more at home in the new culture.
  2. You can get stuck at the bottom and spiral even further downward as you criticize people and things, rationalize your negativity, blame others, and isolate yourself. Choosing these negative reactions will lead you to personal and academic problems as you reject the new culture and feel frustrated, alienated, and hostile towards it.

The stages outlined above often are not linear, but can become a cycle, with Home becoming a second Honeymoon stage and new stresses leading you to new Hard Times.

This can lead you to more intercultural growth as you make positive choices, or to growing more interculturally isolated as you make negative choices.

New “Hard Time” stresses can happen from new circumstances or surprises like:

  • going from ESL to major classes
  • moving off campus
  • breaking up with a partner
  • starting a new on-campus job

These can all present new settings for misunderstanding, but also new opportunities to learn and grow. Your attitude and reactions make the difference!

Tips for Cultural Adjustment and Intercultural Communication

  • Develop awareness of your own cultural values and assumptions.
    • When you’re in a new place it’s not always easy to understand everything that’s going on around you. To help you build an awareness of your own values and assumptions in situations where you feel confused or frustrated, ask yourself why you’re feeling the way you do. How may your expectations be different from what you’ve experienced?
  • Avoid making assumptions about people based on appearance or linguistic ability.
    • Be open and accepting of the unexpected in each person you meet.
  • Be mindful of cultural differences, but be wary of stereotypes.
    • Within every culture or society, there are tendencies and patterns of values and behaviors. However, people are all unique combinations of these various elements and trends. Any person you meet might think, react, or behave differently from your expectation of what is “typical” for that culture. Be aware of the likely areas of difference; but be mindful of each person’s uniqueness, too!
  • Treat everyone you interact with as an individual.
    • You are no more a representative of every person in your country than the other person is a representative of everyone in their country.
  • Maintain a sense of humor.
    • Be ready and willing to laugh at yourself or with others as you navigate intercultural learning and growth.
  • Be patient with yourself and others as we all learn and grow together.
    • Maintaining a hopeful, positive attitude can make all the difference!
  • Use resources to help you manage your adjustment and communication. Check out the list below.

Cultural Adjustment Resources


NYU Residential International Student Engagement (RISE)

RISE provides opportunities for peer interaction, assists with integration into the US, and helps students stay connected to their own culture while connecting with the greater NYU and NYC community. Learn more about RISE.

International Student Center

The NYU International Student Center is a hub for events and programs that foster meaningful connections among all global thinkers and help students from around the world make the most of their NYU experience.

GoWorldWise

Once you log into NYUHome, take a look at the “NYU Life” tab. Click on GoWorldWise to access tools on cultural competency and getting best practices for communicating, living, or working in another country or city, including New York.

World Trade Resource

Once you log into NYUHome, you can find World Trade Resource on the “NYU Life” tab. Click on World Trade Resource to get data on what different regions are like around the world, including all the details on orienting yourself to New York City.

Wasserman Center International Student Services

The Wasserman Center helps international students navigate the US work environment and acclimate to American work culture through individual career coaching and specialized programs. Learn more about the Wasserman Center.

One To World

One To World is an organization that fosters intercultural understanding by creating face-to-face experiences among local communities, international students, and Fulbright scholars. Learn more about how you can get involved with One To World.

English Connections

English Connections provides a variety of volunteer-based programs designed to help international students gain confidence in English, meet new friends, learn about American culture, and adjust to the NYC environment.

Other Helpful NYU Resources


Toolkits

These workshops are designed by Counseling and Wellness Services professionals to help students develop new skills that enhance personal, academic, and social well-being. Learn more about toolkits.

Group Counseling

Group therapy at Counseling and Wellness Services provides a safe and confidential place to explore concerns around various issues with other students having similar experiences. Learn more about Group Counseling.

Individual Counseling

Discuss one-on-one with a Counseling and Wellness Services professional issues ranging from stress, depression or homesickness to roommate and friendship problems, all in a confidential setting. Learn more about Counseling.

Religious and Spiritual Life at NYU

Religious and spiritual life are valuable components of day to day existence for many international students, including those who just want to explore and learn. NYU offers access to a wide range of faith-communities, chaplains, and student-run clubs. Learn more about Religious and Spiritual Life.

MindfulNYU

Get access to yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practice, the intentional, present moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and surroundings without judgment. Learn more about MindfulNYU.

Academic Resources


The American Classroom

Professors and classmates talk about their experiences inside and outside of the classroom in a series of videos designed to help you prepare for your new community. Learn more about the American Classroom.

University Learning Center

The University Learning Center is the place for undergraduate students to go when you need help with academics. You can find cross-school advising, study spaces, peer tutoring, and academic skills classes. Learn more about the University Learning Center.

NYU Libraries Citation Style Guide

Get to know the basics of different citation styles for writing papers from NYU Libraries.

Writing Help

The Writing Center is where any NYU student can get help with their writing. Learn more about how to make and prepare for an appointment with the Writing Center.