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Culture Shock in an Unsteady World

Culture Shock in an Unsteady World

 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 ( 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.

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.

From the Eyes of a Third Culture Kid

From the Eyes of a Third Culture Kid

The cultures of this world are beautiful things. Learning about them can open our eyes to the beauty and creativity of our God.

Third culture kids (TCKs) get a front row seat to the mixing and mingling of the cultures in our world.

A third culture kid is one who has grown up in a cultural environment that is different from either their nationality, or their parent’s. For example, they may possess a United States passport, but have never truly lived within the borders of the United States. They find themselves feeling as if they have their own culture that lies somewhere between the US and whatever country they grew up in.

Susanna Goossen, a first-year sophomore studying Biblical Counseling here at Calvary University, is a TCK from the country of Brazil. Her family has been serving as missionaries in Northeastern Brazil for about twenty-four years. Susanna and her brothers all grew up there, but have found themselves moving to the states to either study or work.

As one can imagine, there are so many things that Susanna loves about her home in Brazil. When asked what her favorites were she said, “The amazing people that I grew up with, the awesome weather, and the Coca-Cola.” Her memories are sweetly tainted with the early mornings she spent watching the sun rise over the beach.

The lively culture of Brazil invites many differences to that of the United States. One of the biggest, and most obvious, changes for Susanna is the difference in the typical greeting. Greetings in Brazil are always met with hugs and kisses, regardless of one’s gender.


Although there are some beautiful things and opportunities that come with being a TCK, there are also some struggles. Identity is a struggle that Susanna pointed out when asked about advice she would give to those coming from the TCK background. To help combat such an identity crisis, she recommends to “write down a list of all the ways that God sees you.” Her go-to statement is “I am a child of God.”

“When sadness and homesickness creep in, remind yourself of who you are in God’s eyes. Even when the slightest doubt about your future or your worth creeps in, go back to this list. It seems like a small thing, but it’s a slow process to find your identity in Christ and this is a practical way to get you started in the right direction.”

For a third culture kid, identity is a huge thing because they are not tied to a specific culture. Their birth certificate says one country, their life experience says another, and their heart language might conflict with either one of those. Restlessness and a sense of uncertainty for where one truly belongs can creep in unnoticed. For Susanna, she has had to learn that “God is the only thing that is constant and unchanging.”

“I can always find refuge in Him. Even when no one understands or cares, He does. Even when everything in my life is changing, He isn’t.”

When loving and caring for TCKs, be sure to be patient. Susanna says that the best way to describe this time of transition is “a time of mourning.” Not only have TCKs moved from their home, but all that they ever knew. They then come back to their “homeland” expected to understand all of the cultural norms and nuances. In reality, they may not understand some of what many would consider as the “simplest” things.


“Pray for us,” Susanna requests. “Most of us can’t go home for Christmas. Some of us have no place to go for break—no place to call home.” It is so easy to feel lost when everyone else is traveling back to mom and dad, but not you. Extend an understanding hand to those who are unable to find their new home as easily as you might.

The final thing of advice for those interacting with TCKs is to be considerate in your explanations. Some of our cultural experiences, that we think are obvious, may be a challenge for TCKs to pick up on. They did not spend their life in the same culture as you might assume.

Susanna is so grateful for her church family and the new friends that she has made here at Calvary. These individuals have embodied the love of Christ to her as they generously give of their time and money, as well as comfort her in moments of homesickness. Calvary is blessed to have so many students who have similar experiences as Susanna’s. Our desire is that all TCKs at Calvary find themselves receiving the same support that Susanna has found.

Being a third culture kid is a fun and exciting journey to be on. As you go about interacting with those who are blessed to have such a culturally diverse life experience, do not be afraid to bring up and discuss their homeland. Learn and grow with them! Take the opportunity to see the riches of God’s glory through the new cultural knowledge that you acquire.


Students Enjoy Inaugural “Cook Together” Event

Students Enjoy Inaugural “Cook Together” Event

Sunday afternoons call for small gatherings and cooking together.

Last Sunday a handful of Calvary’s students gathered to make their own afternoon snack. Korean style sushi, known as kimbap, was on the menu for the first ever Cook Together event.


The focus of the Cook Together was to get everyone involved with making their own personal sushi roll. Creativity is essential when creating one’s own roll. There are a variety of ingredients one could add to kimbap, but the ones used by the students included carrots, egg, pickled radish, cucumber, and imitation crab. Placing all of these items inside the only task left is to roll! Rolling sushi is easier said than done. Some excelled greatly, whereas others have some work to do, but altogether everyone had a great time attempting to roll their own kimbap.

The scent of seaweed lingered on as the fun was moved from the Warrior Cafe to the game room and student lounge. We all look forward to another casual afternoon of cooking together.

Community Flourishes at Intercultural Club Hangout

Community Flourishes at Intercultural Club Hangout

Calvary’s Intercultural Club started the semester off strong with a large turnout on Sunday evening.

January’s culture of the month was presented by Karla Aponte, an education major from Puerto Rico. Her first order of business was preparing the meal for everyone. Karla decided on something that the people of Puerto Rico typically have during Christmas time. A delicious pork was cooked for hours to perfection and rice seasoned just so. Potatoes were boiled and stirred together for a Puerto Rican style potato salad, and the kitchen sat coated in the smells of heaven. Everything was simply amazing. Karla truly outdid herself with this fantastic dinner!

Following the meal Karla presented some information on Puerto Rico. We were all introduced to the beauty of the land and the exciting culture of the people. One of the group’s favorite videos was about what Christmas caroling is like for Puerto Rican people. A large group of people were shown marching up to houses while playing a variety of instruments. The homeowners invited them in as they marched around singing and playing their Christmas tunes. Everyone certainly left with the desire to visit the stunning country of Puerto Rico.

The Intercultural Club Hangout was a great time of getting to know new friends and catching up with old ones. With a total of 38 individuals coming in and out during the event, there was no shortage of people to talk to! It was a delight to see so many students and friends come, and we hope to see them all back next time. 

Calvary Students Participate in Conversation Groups

Calvary Students Participate in Conversation Groups

Calvary’s International Student Services Department holds conversation groups on a weekly basis that exist to benefit the English language learners on campus.

These groups are a time where students can come for instruction in grammar, reading support, and most importantly, conversation over a wide range of topics.

When desiring to fully aquire a language, it is important to practice communicating. The hope for those that participate in conversation groups is that they will become more confident in their conversational skills. This is a time to put the grammar knowledge that they have to use without fear of mistake. 

During our meetings we love to focus on different questions that engage each other in conversation, as well as learn a few phrasal verbs. Phrasal verbs are such a fun part of the English language. Every day life is riddled with, what appear to be, these common sayings. Although some may think them to be commen, often times phrasal verbs are used in a very nonliteral way. And that is where things get tricky and interesting.


Some of the favorite phrasal verbs include “hold up” and “back up”.

Television shows will often use phrases like “what’s holding you up?” Students have found that it is exciting to know what they mean by that. No longer are they just hearing a random saying on TV, but they are now more aware of what the actor/actress is trying to say.

The phrasal verb “back up” is a favorite for its many different ways to use it. Backing people up in conversation or ideas, moving away from something, or even having a backup item are different ways that individuals have found this phrasal verb to be useful.

Learning a language is a hard thing to do, but we hope to encourage, uplift, and help create a deeper understanding of English for those that take part in our conversation groups.  

The Rhyme or Reason

The Rhyme or Reason

Calvary University is home to many fantastic people. Professor of Music, Dr. Haekyung An is one great example.

Dr. An has been serving as a full time faculty member at Calvary University for the last 9 years. Originally from South Korea, Dr. An had come to the United States to study and grow as the Lord opened her eyes and heart to a new culture.

Arriving in the United States as a student, Dr. An had much to learn and struggle through. She had no background in English and for the first month of her time in the U.S. she found herself understanding others through their body language and hand motions. Initially, Dr. An brought a dictionary with her from place to place until it became more of a struggle to look up every word than it was beneficial.

“It’s good to learn things by the book, but living with the people and speaking with them, that’s when you get comfortable.”

Dr. An had discovered a connection between culture and language. No longer was her desire to know every definition, but instead to interact and understand what was going on through the knowledge of the culture that surrounded her.

When asked about her discomfort in the early years of her life of study in the States, Dr. An’s answer revolved around knowing the culture. The more she learned, the more excited she was to be there.

“Even little things made me… comfortable in the environment.” As she grew in her knowledge of the culture and language she became comforted in the setting she was in.

Looking back on her experience of adjusting to a new life in the United States, Dr. An desires for young international students to understand the purpose of their time in the U.S.

Things are not always easy, and when you have grown up in a culture completely different from the one that you are stepping into, you must be solidified in your reasoning for leaving the comforts of home. Just as a box of chocolates hold flavors you love and flavors that disgust you, so will your time in a foreign country be like. Some moments will snatch your attention and cause you to be overwhelmed with joy, and others will drive you insane. When these times come, Dr. An encourages you to take to heart that God knows every step.

“Before even coming. You think [that] you have a plan, but that’s His plan. Go back to Him if [you] have struggles.”

Dr. An was brought closer to the Lord in her times of uncertainty. Not every experience was her favorite, but the Lord worked it together for His good. She wanted to see the beauty of a tree all at once, but God led her continuously back to the root of why she was there before he would show her the flowers in bloom.

If you do not know the reasoning for your arrival in the United States, Dr. An urges you to go to the Lord and ask Him to show you. Leaving your home is a huge transition and should be done through lots of prayer.

A final note of encouragement from Dr. An is this, “If the roads are hard and you fall, get up. [God] will never lead you astray. Don’t give up!”