How to: Culture shock 101
Here are three tips to help you through culture shock and enjoy your time in Canada.

Merriam-Webster defines cultural shock as “a sense of confusion and uncertainty sometimes with feelings of anxiety that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation.” This shock impacts people who migrate to or visit a foreign country. 

As the 2022 fall semester begins, international students from over 130 countries will start their studies at UTM—leaving their homes to begin a new chapter in Canada. There will be many aspects of Canadian life that students will have to adjust to, such as Canadian colloquialisms, crappy coffee, and endless snow. I remember feeling confused and out of place as a new student in middle school—asking teachers questions during class or approaching my classmates to join their groups for class projects made me so nervous as a new immigrant. I felt intimidated and didn’t have the confidence to put myself out there. Over the last seven years, I have learnt a lot during my time in Canada, and I have seen how willing people are to help make you feel at home. So, here are some easy tips that helped me adapt to my new life in this country.

One of the first barriers is understanding the language and accent. At first, I found a lot of unusual slang terms and different pronunciations in daily speaking which were difficult for me to understand. In class, when my professors spoke, I would have to follow the written words on the whiteboard or the handout, since keeping up with the teacher was so tough. The language barrier combined with the unfamiliar accents complicated things—including understanding class assignments, navigating social interactions with my classmates, and participating in class, which is essential in many courses. 

Before moving to Canada, I watched a lot of media—particularly Bollywood movies and Hindi TV shows. Then, I decided to start regularly watching English TV shows, like Friends and Brooklyn 99, which helped me because they spoke the same accented English as Canadians. These are comedy shows that have light-hearted jokes and straightforward plotlines, which helped me get used to listening to and understanding the English commonly used in Canada.  

Moving to a new country can be an anxiety-inducing experience. One of the many ways to overcome this is by making friends. Socializing is essential and can be very difficult and nerve-wracking, but UTM offers many fun opportunities to interact with others. There are events organized almost every week by various clubs on campus that provide opportunities to meet new people. You can follow their social media pages to get notified about these events in advance. UTM has a variety of diverse student groups and societies so you can find clubs that match your likes and interests. Through these organizations, you will quickly meet people that share similar interests and tastes as you. Once you push through the initial awkwardness, you will find out how much the UTM community has to offer.

The weather in Canada is especially treacherous these days. Getting used to the snow can be challenging, and seasonal depression makes it worse. The best way to get used to the snow is to accept it as a constant. The weather app on your phone and some warm clothes will become your companion for at least four to five months—maybe even longer. Invest in puffer jackets, knitted hats, warm socks, wool scarves, fuzzy leggings, and other winter essentials, as they are crucial to survival in the cold climate. You should find fun activities with your friends, like snowball fights, taking pictures with the serene snowy backdrops, and ice-skating at Celebration Square—just a 10-minute drive from campus.

Coming to a new country is a nerve-wracking experience. I salute those who decide to move abroad for education and dream of a better future. Going through these mental and physical hardships can be difficult, but these adversities do not have to define your experience. A lot of people understand and want to support you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Making the best of your adventures through my tips can help make your experience more favourable and ease your transition to Canada.

Staff Writer (Volume 49) — Malavika is in her third year, pursuing a double major in Communication, Culture, Information, and Technology and Professional Writing and Communications with a minor in Political Science. With her contributions to The Medium, she hopes to share her perspective as a young Indian immigrant. She likes research and write about interesting new topics. While procrastinating on her assignment deadlines, you can find her watching romantic Bollywood movies, true crime documentaries, or baking delicious treats.

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