10 January 2020

Choosing to study abroad is a major step in life, but I knew I had made the right decision the moment I got off the plane and set foot in Edinburgh.
Let's Talk About Culture Shock

When the Novelty Wears Off

During the first few weeks, I was so fascinated by the new culture and attracted to everything in this city: the architecture, the new food, the way people dress, the double-decker and open-top buses, and so on. I took a lot of pictures and shared them with my friends at home. Unfortunately, the honeymoon period ended quickly, and I started to feel scared. I still remember the day when I sat in my apartment, staring at the sky through the window, when all of a sudden some indescribable emotions occurred to me. The excitement and sense of freshness gave way to an unpleasant feeling of helplessness and loneliness.

Living in an unfamiliar country is vastly different from travelling. It was not funny but frustrating to communicate with hand gestures and facial expressions when I was unable to make myself understood. Some basics like ordering a pizza or making a doctor's appointment were hard for me at first. Even though I was aware that this feeling was perfectly normal, and many other students were going through the same process, it wasn't easy to manage. I questioned my motivaations and goals for studying in Edinburgh, and I lost my identity in this place mixed with different groups of people.

Making a Change

However, I focused on improving the situation. What really helped me navigate this difficult time was talking to people. I took the initiative to talk to my teachers and asked for their advice; I reached out to my classmates and invited them out for coffee. Creating new relationships is quite challenging, especially with people from different cultural backgrounds, but it is worth doing. Talking to my teachers and classmates allowed me to look at my situation from a very different perspective. Another surprising benefit is that I found out that as human beings we have much more in common than not, despite ethnicity and nationality.

Growing In Courage

Taking the shock out of culture-shock takes time and requires patience. After four months of living in Edinburgh, I have gradually grown accustomed to the new environment. I wouldn't say that I am able to fully and comfortably fit in with the host culture, but luckily, I find I have the courage and confidence to conquer any problems that come my way. My life here is like a maze full of twists and turns. Some problems seem insurmountable at the very start, but eventually I manage to work them out.

Probably this is the way we grow up and learn to be stronger.

Zixuan (Julie) Zeng, Marketing and Business Analysis