The last few weeks have amplified the uncertainties of life.
A new virus, COVID-19, has come and invaded our neatly planned-out lives, causing insane amounts of shock from both international and domestic students alike.
Researchers say that this last year the United States has had over one million international students studying in universities around the nation (iie.org). With more than a million international students in the US, one can only imagine the roller coaster of culture shock that must wear away at their newfound lives.
Culture shock is what occurs when one enters a new culture and is in a mental, maybe even physical, state of confusion. Life is no longer known by the individual, but instead must be learned. The cultural norms people were accustomed to are no longer relevant.
There are a few different stages to culture shock. When individuals enter a new place, their typical response is known by many as the honeymoon phase. They are enjoying life and loving their new home. After a little bit of time in the new environment, the differences of culture begin to eat away at them. No longer are they star-struck by the beauty of what is around them, but they are annoyed at the differences they see. From here people may spiral into bouts of depression and regret. If the deeper issues are truly dealt with correctly, there is a stage involving adaption and moving forward.
Source for chart above:
Maclachlan, Matthew. “What is Culture Shock?” 2015. https://www.communicaid.com/cross-cultural-training/blog/what-is-culture-shock/.
With such knowledge of culture shock, comes the shock of COVID-19. International students all over the United States are stuck in limbo as this virus runs its course. Graduations are postponed, classes are online, funds are drying up, and hope is wavering. Those who were adjusting to a new way of life and trying to live comfortably in it are now thrown off. Their honeymoon stage may have been cut short due to the pandemic that has penetrated the lives of all people.
What can we do in this time of uncertainty? How do we deal with culture shock and a virus that threatens our well-being?
The Bible calls the Christian to a life filled with hope. The world that we live in is a world that awaits the second coming of our Savior. The Apostle Paul tells his readers in Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Though diseases run rampant, and chaos threatens order, we can live in a state of peace. Not because the world is comfortable, but because our God is greater than all of it.
Culture shock may be running through the bodies of all people as they are self-quarantining and finding ways to work from the comforts of home. What is nice on occasion is now forced upon many.
Take this time as a gift.
While stuck in this time of hardship, do something creative. Doodle if you have never doodled before, sing a song, even if you sound like a dying cat, or watch that episode you have been dying to watch. Do not forget to communicate with those who are a part of your life. Use technology to boost the interaction you are missing. Process your struggles out loud to someone you trust and feel the weight lifted as community uplifts you. But, most importantly, spend time with your Lord and Savior.
This time may be burdensome for you, but take refuge in the fact that God knew exactly what was going to happen and what you would be going through. Life is not promised to be easy, but he promises to be near to us. His love for us is inseparable.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor thins present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8: 35–39 (ESV)
During this time of quarantined life, draw near to God. Rest your uncertainties on him, whether they are international student needs, or needs within the bounds of your home culture. Let the struggles be known and begin to adapt to this phase of life through the strength of our God. Allow him to lead you as you navigate whatever situation you may find yourself in. Remain in prayer for one another as we are all battling in this time of adjustment.