Module 5

Cross-Cultural Awareness


In this module you will learn about some significant challenges international students experience when adjusting to a new culture – and how you can help them successfully make those adjustments.

Everyone has a cultural imprint which impacts their worldview, customs, and value system. These can be vastly different between cultures. They may not even be recognized by each individual but can result in significant miscommunication and misunderstanding between people. Knowing these differences exist and gaining an understanding of what they are is a critical part of successfully growing any cross-cultural relationship.

Here are some helpful tips:

  • Be a safe place for students (not overly direct or confrontational).
  • Don’t assume things about them and their culture. Be a learner.
  • Be attentive and sensitive to communication challenges on both sides.
  • Their way may not be wrong; it may just be different.
  • Don’t assume they understand what you are saying. Ask clarifying questions.
  • Respect their time orientation.  It’s probably different than yours. Help them understand our customs regarding time.
  • In many cultures the “community” is more important than the “individual.” They may prefer to do things with their community group or friends.
  • An outward “yes” or “no” may not mean an inward “yes” or “no.”  Give them opportunity to express what they are understanding.
  • Show interest in their customs, foods, and desires.



Often when students enter a new culture, they will experience culture shock. It is important to understand what it is and that it is a normal part of adjusting to any new culture. Understanding what the stages are and what is needed in each stage, can help your student successfully navigate the challenges of culture shock.

Stage 1: The Adventure Stage

  • Everything is new and exciting.
  • They want to try everything and become friends with everyone.

Stage 2: The Crisis Stage

  • They become overwhelmed by too much change.
  • Loneliness often sets in.  There is tendency to retreat, and they may become depressed.
  • This is a time they need your friendship and to be included in your life with family and friends.

Stage 3: The Adjustment Stage

  • They begin to adjust to the differences.
  • They start to separate the good from the bad about the new culture.
  • Help them process their questions, confusion, challenges.
  • Show care and empathy for what they are going through.

Stage 4: The Adaptation Stage

  • They’ve learned how to survive in the new culture.
  • Their worldview is expanding to include what they feel is “good” about the host culture.
  • Affirm what is good about their culture (guided by a Biblical perspective).