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Resources For International Students

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The Counseling Center offers support for students as they deal with the day-to-day challenges of being a university student in the United States.

Many international students may be unsure about seeking out this kind of consultation because of a fear of being seen as weak, unsuccessful, or even "crazy." But many students from the U.S. see these services as a way of dealing with, or improving their current life situation. In the United States, it is quite common to consult with a professional to discuss and address personal matters. This can help to prevent physical and emotional problems.

There are many issues an international student may be concerned about that can be talked about with a counselor. Some examples are:

  • difficulties with time management
  • sleep problems
  • loneliness and homesickness
  • language difficulties
  • adjustment to new academic styles and pressures
  • new social situations
  • developing new friendships and relationships
  • keeping in touch with loved ones at home
  • and many more!

Counseling Services at JMU

The Counseling Center offers a variety of services to help students, including individual and group counseling, crisis/emergency assistance, consultation (or helping you help someone else), and psychiatric/medication services.
Learn more about the Counseling Center services

For students coming from other countries, the idea of talking with a counselor may seem very strange. It may surprise you that this way of handling a particularly difficult time in your life is actually very common in the United States.

The Peer Mentor Program

The Peer Mentor program offers first year multicultural and international students the opportunity to connect with a fellow student to get additional support in the transition into college life at JMU.
Learn more about the Peer Mentor Program

Adjusting to Life in the United States

There are many feelings you may have as you transition to life studying at a university in a new country. It is perfectly normal to go through a number of phases of adjustment to living in an unfamiliar place. Just about everyone will experience some form of "culture shock" or acculturation stress.

The term "culture shock" refers to the stress experienced when transitioning from one cultural environment to another. This is a normal part of adjusting to your new environment and it is very likely that many of your peers are going through the same thing.

Changes in housing, transportation, shopping, language, food, and many other areas require constant adjustment.  This can push the human body into a state of alertness, which takes a huge amount of energy and can result in physical and mental exhaustion and greater vulnerability to illness. Even the relatively mild impacts of jet lag and changes in heat and humidity levels can impact student's ability to function effectively.

Feelings that you may have during this time may include:

Physical Symptoms

  • Fatigue, exhaustion
  • Stomach aches
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Generalized aches and pains
  • Increase in illness or accidents
  • Increased need for sleep, or inability to sleep

Emotional/Social Symptoms

  • Homesickness
  • Sadness
  • Loneliness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of self-confidence
  • Feeling vulnerable, helpless, and/or dependent on others
  • Crying
  • Irritability, anger
  • Negative feelings about the host country and its culture and people
  • Idealization of home country and culture
  • Questioning of the decision to study abroad
  • Abuse of alcohol and/or other drugs

These are all common experiences during the adjustment process and are normal feelings to have. If these feelings become overwhelming or last a very long time, seeking support through counseling is one way to help yourself to feel better.

Phases of Adjustment:

  1. Honeymoon Phase: You may feel happy and excited and be fascinated with your new environment and with the experiences you are having.
  2. Culture Shock Phase: In this phase, the honeymoon has ended. The reality of academic and social demands is starting to become clear. This can be a lot to handle. You may begin to feel sad, confused, overwhelmed, or isolated by cultural differences. Many students seek out other international students who can share in or understand this experience in order to try to deal with these feelings. Feeling angry or unable to "resolve" cultural issues is also common in this phase.
  3. Recovery / Negotiation Phase: In this phase, it is beginning to get easier to understand cultural cues, to communicate in English, and to handle academic assignments. In this phase, your attitude towards the students and culture you have become immersed in may also become a bit more positive.
  4. Autonomy / Acceptance Phase: In this phase, serious dilemmas and anxieties about settling in to university life have pretty much passed. You are likely able to find your way around more easily, and to be feeling more comfortable with US culture.

Suggestions to help you adjust to life in the US:

  • Stay active, exercise
  • Take care of yourself physically (get enough sleep, eat healthfully, limit alcohol intake, etc.)
  • Make time for relaxation or meditation
  • Join in community activities
  • Listen and observe--be open and curious
  • Increase your comfort level with English by practicing and using it, even if it is only for a few minutes a day at first. For additional help, you can go to English Language Learners Services on campus:
  • Find out information--don’t be afraid to ask questions
  • Be honest with yourself
  • Try not to judge US culture against your own culture--instead acknowledge the differences you experience without judgment
  • Try to reach out to the other people around you
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or laugh at yourself
  • Try to accept frustration--some days will be easier than others
  • Get involved in activities and organizations
  • Most importantly, be patient with yourself! Adjustment takes time, and it will get easier!