It is no secret that moving is a challenging task. The time and effort it takes to put ones entire life in boxes, load them up, and move them to an alternate location is extensive. Making a new home, home again can take a lot of time and work. Adjusting to new friends, new neighborhoods, and new expectations can prove to be difficult as well. When the relocation is international it becomes even more demanding with even greater concerns about adjusting to the new location. Adapting to a new country while maintaining every day requirements can be extremely difficult. International relocation can create a stress on an individual due to cultural and language barriers.
It is easy to personally attest to the stress that comes with international relocation. Over a year ago, I personally made the move from Indonesia to Seattle Washington. The excitement about experiencing what America has to offer was overshadowed with the fear of the unknown. Do the pictures and movies truly show the life that can be expected in this new location? The native language in Indonesia is Bahasa Indonesia, not English. The cultural practices and belief differ significantly from the normal practices in Seattle. Religion is a big part of life in Indonesia as well. How can one adapt to such a drastic change? Will people be accepting? What can be expected? A million questions continually surfaced regarding the new life that was ahead.
Starting school in a new country is nothing less than frightful. What one is familiar with as far as fashion and popularity most likely does not transfer internationally. Preparing for a first day with little knowledge to the culture is almost impossible. Even knowing the native language pronunciation and interpretation varies based on the area. “Language skills may be a significant source of stress because of the effect they can have on the social and academic performance of a student.” (Zhai) Making friends is not easy when one cannot communicate with them. If an individual is different, that is not often embraced, it becomes a target to be picked on by the others. Being a diligent student is impossible if one doesn’t understand the words that being taught and expected to use. This is not only speaking the language, but it is reading and writing it as well. Communication is the key to friendships, relationships, being a good neighbors, and making a good life for oneself.
Another stress of international relocation is the cultural variations. Indonesia has a strong group dynamic, among family and one’s village. Interaction there seems like a natural part of a daily routine. It not just waving at a neighbor, it is being actively involved within the community. Cultural food is cooked in the home, but readily available in the event that one wants to dine outside of the home. When relocating, it is important to remember that neighborhoods and communities do not carry the same value of interaction. People walk in and out of their houses daily, never speaking a word to the individual that lives across from them or beside them. There is no unity like one has grown accustom to. It is even frown upon by some people. The new community offers a vast variety of food available on every corner, however it is significantly different than Indonesian food. One has to be willing to adapt to these changes during the relocation.
International relocation is a common practice. America is made up of millions and millions of individuals who differ from one person to the next person. The problem is not necessarily the move itself, it’s finding the understanding and help necessary to make such a drastic change a little easier. “The presence of some type of social support and how it is perceived by the individual appears to provide mental benefits, particularly in times of stress.” (Mallinckrodt & Leong) Many universities have implemented an international department to help alleviate the stress that can be on the student. If work places and communities implemented a program as well, it could really aid in adjusting faster.
Another tool that has become common in aiding with international relocation are classes that offer English as a second language. This helps with not only speaking, but reading and writing as well. Even if one has the basics of the language, it helps to learn how it is used within that specific community. Most communities offer specialty stores that serve groceries and products that are specific to that community. It allows the individuals to still have access to the food and products they love while transitioning to their new location.
International relocation can create a stress on an individual due to cultural and language barriers. However, there is an extensive amount of resources that can make the transition much easier for everyone involved. Utilizing tools like international centers and community out-reach programs can get one acclimated much quicker than on one’s own. Having an understanding and compassion to cultural differences will help not only the relocating individual, but others as well. Social support can make also make these stresses less relevant. International relocation is inevitable, but with the proper tools and resources the individual should be able to jump in and pick up right where they left off.
- Zhai, L. Studying International Students: Adjustment Issues and Social Support. 2002. Print.
- Mallinckrodt, B, & Leong, F, T. International Graduate Students, Stress, and Social Support. Journal of College Student Development. 1992. Print.