As humans, we are able to adjust in constantly moving environments, but it sure takes time and effort. Every individual experience shapes how one adapts in a new environment and overcomes the stress related to the adjusting period. In this article, the focus will be on how to adapt in new situations, including in university, and how to manage study-related tensions.
A new academic study year has begun, and most students feel that they are in a traffic jam full of obstacles, challenges, novelties, and uncertainties, emotionally overwhelmed by all these stressors. However, it is absolutely OK to feel all that, because whether this is a first time experience – being away from home or going back to study after a break – starting university life is a time of great change, but at the end of the day you will learn how to cope with these changes.
Adjustment to change
The ability to adjust to new situations or environments is an important phase in one’s development. Based on the context, this term is interpreted differently. Within this topic, adapting is a process by which an individual is able to cope with the demands/requirements of the external and internal environment, one of which is stress management (Kallasmaa, 2003), as is the process of matching, establishing, and maintaining relationships.
When entering university or starting a new academic year you might face unexpected challenges. To understand and better describe what one is experiencing through the adapting period, several theorists have differentiated phases of adjustment. For example, cultural researcher Geert Hofstede distinguishes four main stages in the adjustment to an unfamiliar environment. The duration and intensity of the stages depends on the person and to what extent the new environment differs from the person’s original place. In addition to the four main stages, the fifth also deserves attention.
1. Euphoria or “honeymoon”. In this phase, the person feels positive and excited about the new environment, and has high expectations for the future. This is experienced by a person who has wanted to go to a new cultural space, and coming to university is usually just such a free choice.
2. Disappointment or culture shock. The first difficulties and crises. The new situation may not fully meet expectations; one may not succeed in building relationships and is confused by having to manage large amounts of information and new rules of conduct. This leads to dissatisfaction, impatience, anger, sadness, feelings of loneliness and incompetence, etc.
3. Acceptance of, getting used to, learning from the new situation. Gradually, one develops an understanding of the rules and norms; is no longer afraid to experiment; is more social and open again; the sense of humour re-appears and a certain psychological balance emerges.
4. Adjustment or integration with the new culture. One feels confident in the new environment and copes well; the sense of belonging has increased. Self-definition is clarified and the person acts purposefully.
5. Reverse culture shock may occur on returning to one’s home culture (or city). One may find that things or people have changed, or they themselves have changed to an extent that they no longer adapt to their former life environment.
Hereby, it is important to emphasize that adjustment stages are used mostly in a cultural context where one leaves a home country (city) and starts a new phase in a new culture. Nevertheless, these phases can also be applied to university life.Continue reading