With over 70 countries represented at BYU-Hawaii, students and staff have a unique opportunity to experience various cultures from around the world. BYUH provides a distinctive experience and culture shock is common.
Zach Zufelt, a senior studying sports and exercise science from California, explained his first encounter with culture shock, “I remember vividly in one of my classes my teacher left the class open for everyone to give comments. The class had many international students in it. It was super hard to understand what they were saying because I had only been used to hearing accents from America.”
According to an editorial entitled “Culture Shock & The Problem Of Adjustment To New Cultural Environments,” written by an Anthropologist Dr. Lalervo Oberg, there are four different stages to culture shock.
The first one is called the honeymoon stage. This stage is the romantic phase of a relationship. The second stage is called the negotiation stage. This is when feelings of excitement rub off and feelings from anxiety and unfamiliarity begin. The third stage is called the adjustment phase and the fourth the mastery phase. Language barriers, social communication, and new ways of living can start to have an affect on one’s behavior and mood, says Oberg.
Bila Laulotu, a freshman studying math education from Tonga, commented on what he noticed when he first moved to Hawaii. “The food here is way different because everyone at home cooks. Here everyone goes and gets fast food because it is so easy and cheap. In Tonga, they don’t have fast food. The language is hard the first semester because Tongans don’t speak English.”
Tureiti Rudolf, an undeclared freshman from New Zealand, explained her culture shock, “I had a roommate from the mainland. It was different living with her because she wasn’t used to sharing food like in Polynesian culture. On campus, Polynesians are louder while Asians usually keep to themselves. The accents were hard to understand at first as well.”
The third stage is the adjustment phase, according to Lalervo. This is when one is able to start to gain familiarity with the new culture(s) in which one is immersed. At this stage one is able to know what to expect from the culture.
The last stage is called mastery phase. This is when a person is fully comfortable and understanding of the culture.
Zufelt said he now uses his experiences with culture shock for good. He explained, “Having English as your native language gives you more opportunities to help others around campus. Being here with people from different ethnicities gives you a chance to help people where they are not as comfortable as you. It’s great to know people all over the world and to get to know what life would be like in a completely different part of the world thousands of miles away.”