Adjusting to Life in the United States

Suggestions and Information

If you find yourself experiencing difficulties adjusting to life in the United States, perhaps the following suggestions may be helpful:

Maintain Your Perspective

  • Try to remember that a lot of people have come to UNC Asheville from many different countries, and they have survived.

Evaluate Your Expectations

  • If you find yourself feeling confused or disappointed about something, ask yourself;
    • What did I expect?
    • Why did I expect it to be different?
    • Was my expectation reasonable in this setting?

Keep an Open Mind

  • People at UNC Asheville are acting according to their set of values, not yours. 
  • They can be very different. 
  • Do not evaluate the behavior of people from other countries using the standards you would use in your country.

Learn from Experience

  • Living in the United States can be a fascinating experience and a great way to complete your education.  
  • Use your time here to explore the country and the people. 
  • Approach each new experience with a desire to learn from it--and you will!

Make Good Use of All Available Help

  • Take advantage of the offices on campus that are designed to assist International students.

Daylight Saving Time

This is a custom to allow the people in the United States more daylight hours during the summer months.

  • 2 a.m., on a Sunday night in Spring, Daylight Saving Time will begin (these dates change from year-to year).  All clocks are moved forward one hour.  1 a.m. becomes 2 a.m.
  • 2 a.m., on a Sunday in October, Day Light Saving Time will end.  All clocks move backward one hour.  2 a.m. becomes 1 a.m.


Adjustment to any new situation or culture is not accomplished in just a few days.  Adjustment is an on-going process.  Following are the four stages of cultural adjustment as identified by Gregory Trifonovitch:

The Honeymoon Stage

  • This stage is characterized by exhilaration, anticipation, and excitement.  Everything is new.
  • This is a time full of eagerness and a spirit of cooperation with your new surroundings.
  • This is an exciting time; however, in all the enthusiasm you frequently nod or smile to indicate understanding when in fact you have not understood.
  • As your misunderstandings mount up, you are likely to experience the second stage of cultural adjustment.

The Hostility Stage

  • During this time you may have periods of great frustration, anger, anxiety, and sometimes depression.
  • Following the initial excitement comes the frustration with the college bureaucracy and the weariness of speaking and listening to English every day.
  • Sleep patterns may be disrupted.
  • You may suffer from indigestion and be unable to eat.
  • Often the reaction is to reject the new environment in which you feel discomfort.
  • You may think, "If I feel bad it's because of them."
  • At this point you may display hostility toward the new culture.
  • Often you may have fits of anger over minor frustrations, excessive fear and mistrust of Americans [people from the United States], frequent absenteeism, lack of interest, lack of motivation.
  • Many academic problems begin during this stage.
  • The hostility stage can be a difficult, painful stage.
  • Realizing this can be very beneficial in moving on to the third stage of cultural adjustment.

The Humor Stage

  • This stage follows when you begin to relax and to laugh at minor mistakes and misunderstandings which would have previously caused major headaches.
  • This more relaxed state of being occurs after you have made some friends, learned to manage the size and complexity of the University, understand your studies, and you begin to pass tests.

The Home Stage

  • You find yourself at this stage when you are able to retain allegiance to your home culture, but also "feel at home" in your newly acquired one.
  • You have successfully adjusted to the norms and standards of the University, and should be commended for the ability to live successfully in two cultures.