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PHoto of Dr Arunima KhannaCross-Cultural Advisor

While Queen’s attempts to provide culturally sensitive counselling in general, students from culturally and racially diverse backgrounds can request specialised services of the cross-cultural counsellor.  Issues of concern that may be addressed include social identity, personal development, crises, personal and family problems, adjusting to university life in Canada, stress, anxiety, depression, self-esteem and self-confidence, ethnicity, race and minority issues, intercultural relationships, intimate relationship issues, racism, abuse and assault, cultural and sexual orientation concerns, grief and mourning.  The cross-cultural counsellor also provides consultation to the university community on issues of cultural awareness and sensitivity, equity and intercultural communication.

Studying abroad can be an exciting time personally, academically and socially. The experience of studying in a new environment can be both exciting and challenging, but sometimes also overwhelming and stressful. Some of these challenges include:

  • Adjusting to a new social environment and a new academic culture (including working more independently, critical thinking, giving presentations, academic writing, different lab environment, language related issues)
  • Developing new social relationships and support systems
  • Adjusting to new roles and responsibilities as a graduate or professional student, research and teaching assistant
  • Balancing multiple roles such as a student, T.A. or R.A., parent, partner or care provider
  • Managing academic deadlines

The Queen’s Intercultural Advisor Dr. Arunima Khanna has outlined some strategies for managing this “intercultural adjustment”.

You can help this adjustment process by:

  • Being patient and open minded.
  • New daunting or intimidating situations should not be taken too seriously. Using humour in awkward encounters.
  • Becoming familiar with norms and expectations of your new academic, work and social environment
  • Connecting with resources, asking for help as needed
  • When you feel unsure or overwhelmed, trying to talk to people – other students, advisors, supervisors, counselors etc.
  • Taking the initiative and making connections; trying to construct a local circle of friends and support (be patient and persistent because this can take time and effort).
  • Keeping busy and physically active.
  • Staying connected with your culture – friends, family, fellow nationals, ethnic food stores, clubs etc.

It is quite common to experience some highs and lows as you adjust to being at Queen’s and in Canada. Some signs of culture shock may include:

  • Feeling very homesick and lonely
  • Some anxiety and loss of confidence
  • Some feelings of sadness and or irritability
  • Feeling more emotional
  • Changes in appetite, sleep (sleeping too much or too little) or energy levels
  • Physical ill health

Usually, any such feelings of culture shock improve over time as you become more familiar with your new environment. If this “low” continues for some time, seek out help. Contact Dr. Arunima Khanna at 613-533-6000 ext. 75774 or by Email at 7ak1@queensu.ca