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This paper explores cultural shock experiences encountered by African students studying in Indonesian Universities. The study used qualitative approach to collect data through in-depth face-to-face interviews with African students and participant observation. The findings of the study reveal that many African students had experienced unfamiliar situation that are different from those of their home countries in the course of study in Indonesia. Such situation leads to what is called “culture shock”, which includes new academic life, culture fatigue, language barrier and food outlets. The study has shown that most of the stress had a profound impact on shaping their acculturation and living in Indonesia. The study adds knowledge to literature, particularly on generating ideas for better management of culture shock in an alien environment. Accordingly, the study recommends that before embarking to abroad for education, it is very important to understand the mechanism and consequences of study abroad and shape our knowledge of how these experience function worldwide and students should develop positive attitudes in order to ease their adjustment to an alien culture and setting.
ELS Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies on Humanities
Volume 2 Issue 1, 2019
ISSN (print) : 2621-0843
ISSN (online) : 2621-0835
Homepage :
ELS Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities
Cultural Shock Among African Students in Indonesia
Astelia Mihayo
This paper explores cultural shock experiences encountered by African students studying in Indonesian
Universities. The study used qualitative approach to collect data through in-depth face-to-face interviews with
African students and participant observation. The findings of the study reveal that many African students had
experienced unfamiliar situation that are different from those of their home countries in the course of study in
Indonesia. Such situation leads to what is called “culture shock”, which includes new academic life, culture
fatigue, language barrier and food outlets. The study has shown that most of the stress had a profound
impact on shaping their acculturation and living in Indonesia. The study adds knowledge to literature,
particularly on generating ideas for better management of culture shock in an alien environment.
Accordingly, the study recommends that before embarking to abroad for education, it is very important to
understand the mechanism and consequences of study abroad and shape our knowledge of how these
experience function worldwide and students should develop positive attitudes in order to ease their
adjustment to an alien culture and setting.
Keywords: Acculturation, African students, Culture shock.
How to cite: Mihayo, A. (2019). Cultural Shock Among African Students in Indonesia. ELS Journal on
Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities, 2 (1), 1-13.
1. Introduction
The ever-increasing opportunities of mobility and bilateral relationships between
countries has given rise to student’s chances to pursue higher education in abroad. In a
point of fact, the passion of students to go to abroad to pursue higher education has vividly
increased (Kachru, 1992). In Africa for example, every year many students secure
admission to continue their studies abroad, such as Europe, America, Asia and sometimes
within Africa. It is believed that studying abroad is a worthy investment which not only aids
students with future career opportunities but also broaden novice’s world view and ways of
thinking by providing more life experiences (Chen & Zimitat, 2006; Qun et al, 2018). It is
important to note that students do not excel their academic life exclusively. Rather they are
also exposed to both academic setting and socio-cultural activities. As a result, learning in
abroad means both achieving academic merits and acculturating to the alien culture in
order to survive in the host country: learning language, customs and values of the society
(Huang, 2014). However, learning of this culture could be a stressful experience for
example, acquisition of new academic culture and language as well as forced acculturation
Department of Literary and Cultural Studies, Faculty of Humanities, Universitas Airlangga
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in the community (Qun et al, 2018). Even though it may be something you have planned
and prepared for, yet the extent of the change and effects it has on you may shock you
(Xioqiong, 2008).
The prevalent of students’ culture shock is a global concern. Literature increasingly
indicates that nearly all international students in various foreign countries are implicated
different culture shocks such as language barrier, academic culture, sociocultural relations,
discriminations, loneliness, lifestyles, anxiety and food outlets which could lead to
inconveniences living in foreign country (Smith, 1995; Lin & Yin, 1997; Khawaja &
Stallman, 2011; Qun et al, 2018). For example, Naysmith and Corcoran (2001) found that
these students who embark on a journey abroad for education respond not just to one
event, but to a series of events and experiences which are so dissimilar from their own.
Such events and experiences are indeed ‘shocking’ to them, that the term ‘culture shock’
is used to refer those events and experiences (Hu, 2008; Qun et al, 2018). The study
highlighted that a significant culture shock was largely to lack of familiar clues in the host
country, even though they attended farewell program prior to their departure. Yet, they
portrayed inadequate knowledge of the foreign culture and environment.
Previous research on cultural shock has been based on International students’
experience of culture shock in the course of study abroad and provide some suggestions
in the form of recommendations on what students should do to adjust to an alien culture
(c.f. Anjalin et al, 2017; Snoubar & Celik, 2013; Shieh, 2014; Merta et al, 1988).
Additionally, most of these studies which have been done so far in culture shock still
revolve around Asians and Middle East students. Knowledge on what African students’
regularly experience when studying abroad is largely missing from the previous research.
Indeed, the experience among African students when studying in abroad has been less
explored. Thus, studying African students’ experience is crucial to learn the extent to which
African students from collectivistic cultures, experience culture shock when study abroad.
Therefore, it is, in this light this study seeks to explore culture shock experiences and
coping strategies of contemporary African students, particularly in context of Indonesian
Universities. In so doing, the study adds knowledge to literature of culture shock,
particularly on the aspect of African students’ experience of culture shock and coping
strategies. The study also provides practical recommendations to help raise awareness
towards mechanism and consequences of culture shock when study abroad.
2. International students and culture shock experiences
Many students around the globe have wishes to continue their higher education in
abroad. This situation is coupled by numerous pull and push factors for students’
motivation to study abroad. According to (Mazzarol & Soutar, 2002) pull and push factors
“operate within the home and host country, and hence initiate a student’s decision to
undertake studies in abroad” (88). Of course, push and pull factors range from the
unavailability of a study program in the home country, lack of access to home universities,
better condition of education in the host country, socio-economic status, improving career
prospects, and wide range of opportunities for students (Belhadi & Ayad, 2017).
Accordingly, students leave their natal homes and travel to study in abroad. However,
leaving home is always a stressful experience, even though it may be something you have
planned and prepared for. This is due to cultural differences that exist between the home
country and host country (Belhadi & Ayad, 2017). The observation shows that many
students who travel to foreign countries for studies experience unfamiliar situations from
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those in their homes (Naysmith & Corcoran, 2001), and hence, encounter troubles in
adapting a new environment. Such experiences are commonly referred to culture shock.
The term culture shock was first used by Kalervo Oberg in 1960, in his published
Journal Culture Shock: Adjustment to New Cultural Environments. Oberg (1960) defines
culture shock as “mental illness, an occupational pathology for person transplanted
abroad, ‘precipitated by the anxiety that results from losing all familiar signs and symbols
of social intercourse” (142). In recent years, researchers have proposed more findings on
culture shock. Amongst them, Channey and Martin (2007) pointed out that culture shock is
a wound which appears when a person moves from his or her original culture to a distinctly
different one. This term expresses the physical and emotional upset when individual in
contact with the new environment (Kealey, 1978). Additionally, showcases lack of familiar
clues and signal they use in their daily life such as language, gestures, norms, and
customs (Belhadi & Ayad, 2017). This is only recognized when a person moves to different
area with different culture. So far it is proposed that culture shock could result in
psychological and physiological maladjustment when reactions to cultural difference
impeded performance (Winkelman, 1994). This may encompass psychology, physiology,
emotion, interpersonal relationship cognition, and society, as well as changes in socio-
cultural relationship, cognition imbalance, and role pressure. As a result, students may
encounter some difficulties in many areas of their social and academic life.
Managing students’ culture shock is not an easy task, however it is the responsibility
of all students to ensure that they cope with the situation in order to survive in abroad.
Accordingly, it is suggested that almost everyone who lives in or moves to a “culturally
plural society” would experience some degree of acculturation (Berry, 2005: 473).
Acculturation happens to almost everyone: refugees, immigrants, sojourners, international
students, ethnic minority and others who live in foreign country (Sam & Berry, 2010). The
term acculturation was firstly coined by American explorer and ethnologist John Wesley
Powel in 1880. Powel defines acculturation as, “the psychological changes induced by
cross-cultural imitation” (Seel, 2012: 1149). Therefore, acculturation is a form of culture
change that is brought by direct contact between different cultures. In broader, concepts of
intercultural contact, acculturation is the process of adapting into a second culture that one
does not belong (Zhou, 2008), and then results in culture change due to continuous
contact and cross-cultural interactions between two distinct cultures (Berry et al 1987). The
process involves cross-cultural communication, cultural learning, cultural changes, and
adaptation. Thus, sojourning is viewed as a learning experience rather than a medical
nuisance as it is in Oberg’s culture shock model. Thus, students in cultural transit are
proactively responding to and resolving problems stemming from change, rather than
being passive victims of trauma stemming from a noxious event (Zhou,, 2008: 65).
In this study the notion of “culture shock” is regarded as a contact-induced stress
accompanied by skill deficit that can be managed and ameliorated, and terms such as
‘adaptation’ and ‘acculturation’ have been increasingly used instead (Bochner, 2003).
Coining the term ‘acculturation’ as an alternative of ‘culture shock’ is to recognize both
positive and negative stress instead of shock with only negative connotation, and to
highlight the interaction with more than two cultures involved instead of only single culture
implies in the culture shock (Berry, 2006:294).
Ward, Bochner, & Furnham (2001) provides the ABC model which describes culture
shock as an active process describing how individuals, feel, think, react, and behave when
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they are exposed to a new culture. The ABC model consists of three components as
pointed below:
a. Affective (stress, coping, and adjustment). The affective (A) element identifies the
feelings and emotions of how individual cope with the acculturative stress.
b. Behavior (culture learning). The behavioral (B) element looks at how individuals
acquire new skills and learn to adapt the new environment.
c. Cognition (social identification). The cognitive (C) element studies how individuals
develop, change and maintain their social identities
These three viewpoints together offer a foundation for a comprehensive model of
cultural adaptation. The ABC model provides a positive view of culture shock instead of
only viewing it as unhealthy, negative, and passive phenomena (Ward et al, 2001). It views
culture shock as an active on-going process with skills deficit that can be learned and
managed (Bochner, 2003). Given the contextual cultural shock experiences of students
across the world, the analytical framework presented in this section guides the
investigation of culture shock that African students experience when move to a new
culture, study abroad students’ experience in Indonesian’s Universities, where there is a
knowledge gap on the study of this nature. In this light the present study attempts to
examine the aspects of cultural shock that African students do experience in Indonesia,
the impacts of culture shock to students’ social and academic life in Indonesia and the
coping strategies that African students adopt to settle in the existing alien culture
3. Method
The researcher deployed qualitative research approach to collect data in this study.
Since, qualitative research approach calls for studying a phenomenon in its natural and
social settings by engaging the how and what questions on the socially-constructed reality
(Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2007; Thomas, 2009: Fussy, 2018); it facilitated the present
study to explore aspects of culture shock, its effects in respect to students’ social and
academic life, and participants’ experience and coping strategies to deal with it (Qun et al,
2018). The qualitative approach in this study was informed by a case study design. Yin
(2009) defines case study design as, “an empirical inquiry that investigate a contemporary
phenomenon in-depth and within its real-life context”. (18). In this study, the case study
was deployed because the researcher intended to explore students’ experiences
pertaining to culture shock and coping strategies while studying abroad (Anjalin et al
Accordingly, the data for this study were generated from African students who study
at Airlangga University (Indonesia). African students were selected because their number
in Indonesian higher learning institution display significant increase so far. Airlangga
University was also selected because it topped the list of Indonesian’s leading universities
in accommodating international students from Africa. These participants were purposively
sampled based on year of study (in 2016, 2017 and 2018) and country of origin as well as
based on their gender (male and female) to increase diversity and rich data. Thus, a
sample of 10 (5 males, 5 females) participants of African origin was drawn-three from East
Africa (one from Tanzania, one from Uganda, and one from Kenya), three from South
Africa (Zimbabwe), and four from West Africa (two from Gambia and two from Nigeria)
participated in the in-depth interview.
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Adhering to ethical issues, the researcher pursued the permission from Airlangga
Global Engagement (AGE) to conduct this study. Airlangga Global Engagement (AGE) is
an organization which is responsible for international students’ affairs. The named
organization, in turn, issued a permit to enable the researcher’s access to international
students in Airlangga University. Within international students, the researcher approached
the president of international students and explained the purpose of the study which was
geared towards adding to the literature in order to promote students’ adjustment to an
alien culture and environment. Then the president assisted the researcher to inform the
international students and share their contact information. With participants’ consent to
participate in the study, a convenient schedule and time was arranged for the interviews.
However, before interview, participants were assured of confidentiality and anonymity
nature of the interview. Thus, the researcher ensured the collected data are kept safely
and used for such purpose only. Similarly, the researcher did not mention names of
participants, particularly during reporting the findings of the study.
Data were collected using semi-structured face to face interviews and participant
observation. The participants were interrogated about their experiences pertaining to
culture shock in Indonesia. In a semi-structured interview, the probes developed around
the aspects of culture shock, effects, adjustment and coping strategies. With the consent
of study’s participants, interviewees’ responses were recorded and then transcribed
verbatim by the researcher. Participant observation mainly used in circumstances where
interview could hardly work. Specifically, in classroom attendances and outdoor activities.
The researcher also noted and evaluated participants’ performances in classroom and
outdoor activities. The observation of these phenomenon helped to create a clear picture
of the students’ experience in alien culture and environment.
Data gathered through interview and participant observation were subjected to
thematic analysis. Thematic analysis allows for qualitative data to be analyzed according
to relevant themes (Braun & Clarke, 2006; Cresswell, 2009; Fussy, 2018). Themes were
identified basing on what has been said or observed by [from] the participant only (Braun &
Clarke, 2006).
4. Findings and Discussion
4.1. Aspects of culture shock
The findings indicate that culture shock is an avoidable phenomenon and it is
experienced by almost every sojourner who have ever travelled abroad to study. This
applies whichever country one is coming from, and wherever you are going to study, even
though some cultures might be alike. These experiences similarly encounter international
students, including Africans. As noted earlier in this study, the culture shock derives from
both the challenge of new socio- cultural settings and from the loss of a familiar clues,
which could be manifested in the following aspects:
4.1.1. Academic culture
All students reported to have experienced varying degree of culture shock when
studying at Airlangga University. They reported that the academic culture at the named
University is totally different from that of their home countries in everything: educational
system, curriculum, pedagogy and evaluation systems. Precisely, anxiety, loneliness, and
frustration were reported to be the main symptoms African students suffered from. Some
participants felt overwhelmed after they first set foot in the class. One student who had two
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years’ experience explained that: “I was overwhelmed because everything seemed new to
me in the class. The teaching system was totally different from ours ‘teacher’s centered
and more tugas (assignments). At first it was hard to complete assignments on time”
(Student: 2016). Another student added that: “I was confused and helpless.
Communication with others was my big problem. I couldn’t understand lectures and
contact with others. I had no friends to talk and study with, no one could associate with
me” (Student: 2017). These responses indicate that most students were surprised with the
teaching system used at the university. Accordingly, the language of instruction was
reported to be a hindrance towards their understanding in the classroom and social
settings. Most of them get used to English, but in Indonesia, it quite different. Indonesian
language and Javanese are the main means of communication in Surabaya. They
described the new language as “too difficult” (student: 2018), and they had suggestions
such as “It would be better if English language could be used in the classroom” (student:
2018) and “It could be easy for us to understand” (student: 2016).
African students found listening and speaking in Bahasa Indonesia tiring and
confusing. They felt isolated in this alien environment (Surabaya) because they could not
interact with people due to language obstruction. One of them said: “I felt anxious. I found
communication with teachers and other people was hard. I wanted to return home”
(student: 2018). Another student expressed a similar view:
“It was difficult for me to communicate with local people because I could not
speak Bahasa Indonesia. One student day I went for shopping, I asked an
Indonesian for directions and my pronunciation confused him. He told me to
repeat it but still he could not get what I said” (student: 2017).
Students were also asked about the experience of other international students. They
explained that other international also experienced culture shock but however not at the
same degree as Africans does. For instance, international students with Asian-based
origin: Thailand, Malaysia, and others. It has been not the same case to such students
because their culture and indeed, their local languages are somehow related to Indonesian
language. For example, one student commented: “Our fellow students from Malaysia for
instance speak Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian language) fluently. Their language is
somehow similar, this makes easy for them to communicate and understand in the class”
(student: 2018). This suggests that African students suffered more from culture shock
compared to their fellow international students from other Asian countries like Malaysia
and others. Most of them had obstacles when engaging in communication with teachers
and classmates as well as local people. They found difficult to understand lectures, and
thus lacking complete understanding of what is taught in the class due to language barrier.
4.1.2. Food
In an interview with African students it was described that food in general had
brought cultural difficulties as it is not the same as in their home countries. They found
Indonesian food strange. It is cooked and tasted different compared to what they are used
to. As the student reported that: “I was frustrated in the first day I arrived in Surabaya
. I
was hungry but I could not eat the food, because it was too manis (sweet) and oily”
(student: 2017). Students were shocked with the way Indonesian food is prepared and
served. As another student added that: “They put too much spices, oil and most of time
Surabaya is the capital city of East Java Province-Indonesia, where Airlannga University is located.
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with no garam (salt). Food is severed everywhere in warung (small restaurants)” (student:
2016). The finding illustrated that the food is cooked differently from the way African dishes
are prepared, it is oily, sweet or too spiced, which make it taste totally differently from
African foods. Hence, most of the students could not manage to eat the Indonesian food.
One student who stays off- campus said: “If you are in self-accommodation kos (boarding
house) and unused to cooking for yourself, you may find yourself on ‘bread’ everyday
instead of your usual diet” (student: 2018).
Besides food preparation, even the main food in Surabaya makes African students
realize that they are in culture shock. For example, most people in Surabaya like to eat
rice in every meal (morning to evening). While most of African are used to eat different
food in every meal: such as may take yam for breakfast, ugali (stiff porridge) for lunch and
rice for dinner. For instance, student (2017) reported that, “I cannot eat rice in every meal,
so I skip eating sometimes”. From the interview demonstrate that most of the students
cannot take rice regularly because they are not used to such eating style in their home
country. In fact, nasi (rice) is the most available food in Indonesia, but most of the African
students find difficult to eat rice daily. Therefore, they would opt to eat ‘fast’ food or skip
the meal as stated somewhere by some students. This situation affects students’ diet
which in turn, could affect their healthy in general.
4.1.3. Social Values
This study has found that African students despite of being aware on some cultural
differences that exist in the host country; e.g. food, academic culture, language barrier,
they also came to notice that they were shocked with Indonesian social and cultural
situation. It was surprising and sometimes distressing when students find out that, people
in Indonesia do share some of their most deeply ideas, unlikely as most of Africans take in
their socio-cultural settings. As one of students narrated about her experience:
“I felt embarrassed when people ask about my personal information;
questioning about my family, whether I am married or do I have a boyfriend or I
have children, my age, religion, occupation and everything about me. You
cannot ask such personal questions in my home country. It sounds impolite in
my country.” (student: 2017)
Another student shared her experience that she was asked to take foto (selfie) by
many people in a famous mall in Surabaya. The student reported that she never wanted to
go in malls and scenic spot because she would feel shy and sometimes get annoyed when
strangers ask for selfies. Moreover, findings demonstrate that many students were not
happy when exposed to Indonesian living condition. There was no permission to visit
males’ or females’ hostels if you are of different sex and there was a limited time
(22:00pm) to enter the hostel. Almost everyone had moved from asrama mahasiswa
(students’ hostel) to a kos (boarding house) or apartment near their campus where there
was little freedom if compared to asrama. Another student explained:
“I remember, in few days after my arrival in asrama (hostel), I moved to an
apartment. It is not allowed to visit asrama putri (females’ hostel) and vice
versa, it is their budaya (culture). Oddly, we must return hostel before 22:00pm”.
(student: 2016)
The responses from the interview showed that students were not interested when
exposed to Indonesian socio-cultural settings. They were strained with the way people live
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and the way they asked too many questions. It sounded impolite to students, but however
for Surabaya people and Indonesian in general, it is polite and culturally accepted to ask
about one’s information, even if you have never met before. Generally, for Indonesians,
they believe it’s a way of being friendly to a new stranger.
4.2. Impacts of culture shock to African students
Culture shock stress responses cause both psychological and physiological reactions
to the acculturating group (Winkelman, 1994). These reactions include: emotional,
interpersonal, cognitive, and social components resulting from changes in sociocultural
relations, cognitive fatigue, role stress, and identity loss (Berry, 2005). As per interview
with Students studying at Airlangga University, it was reported that, most of African
students were psychologically and intellectually affected when trying to respond to culture
shock stresses.
Students reported that culture shock comes as a hurtful surprise to most of them.
Additionally, psychologists have suggested mental disorders as one of the results of
culture shock (Belhadi & Ayad, 2017). African students reported to encounter emotional
disorders, when living in and adjusting to Indonesian culture. Thus, results to psychological
confusion among themselves, and hence physical stress occurred too. Some of the
students were reported to skip classes from time to time as they found classroom setting
boring. However, the degree of shock would vary from one person to another depending
on one’s personality and social support.
On the other hand, culture shock influence intellectual growth. Argyle (1969) as cited
in Zhou et al. (2008) explained that culture shock and other cross-cultural adjustments
stresses are regarded as learning experience with education impact. Such as they
stimulate, motivate, and enhance the culture traveler’s intercultural communicative
competence (Belhad & Ayad, 2017). African students illustrated that they were motivated
and sometimes forced to learn culturally relevant social skills to survive and thrive in
Indonesia. Students did so because they found culture shock was not only a stressing
experience but, rather a process of intercultural learning, leading to greater self-awareness
and personal growth (Adler,1975). They conceived the potentially positive and negative
consequences of culture shock as part of the culture learning process (Bochner et al,
2003). As a result, African students learn the skills, rules, and roles that are required in the
new culture (Indonesia).
4.3. Strategies for managing culture shock
As noted elsewhere in this study, managing students’ culture shock is not an easy
task as it varies from one individual to another. Such variations are bound to individuals’
characteristics, their intent and needs, and the cultural and social context of adaptation,
but however some are universal (Yam & Lam, 2017; Taft, 1977; Berry, 2005). The study
found demonstrate that most of the students had acculturated to understand the new
culture and establish adaptive strategies (adaptation and adjustment in intercultural
contact). Intercultural adaptation and adjustments refer to as a long-term process in which
sojourners adjust to and lastly feel comfortable in a new cultural setting (Kim, 2001; Qun,
2018). The ABCs model offer a foundation for a comprehensive model of cultural
adaptation with reference to African students studying in Airlangga University, Indonesia
(Zhou et al., 2008). Through the ABC model to culture shock students explicitly expressed
their process of acculturation from cross-cultural transition to acculturative stress,
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individual’s responses, and outcomes looking into both societal and individual level
variables (Ward et al, 2001).
First, based on the interview the researcher found that students were connected with
their compatriots in the host country (countrymen in host country). They increased
communication with those remaining in the home (family member and friends). Similarly,
they became more involved in academic activities in order to establish good friendship with
teachers and local students in the host country and hence feel more adapted to the
academic life and kept communicating with their friends and relatives in the home country.
As one of the students said:
“I kept in touch with my family and friends who supported me to be strong and
attend lectures. I participated in some university activities. I developed
friendship networks and connected to faculty staffs. The most important thing is
that I believed in myself” (student: 2016).
Another student added:
“I called my homebased friends (who studies at Airlannga University) whenever
I felt lonely, because they gave me strength every time I talked to them. They
know better than me” (Student: 2017).
Student received social supports from both host and co-nationals while study abroad,
which ameliorated stresses amongst themselves. Through social supports, students
became aware that culture shock is just a result of changes of everyday life, which can be
learned and adopted. Moreover, findings reveal that students’ adaptation to a new
academic life become stronger as they become more involved in campus activities. Thus,
enabled them to successfully adapt new academic setting and achieve their goal
Second, Students interacted with local people: Indonesian students, teachers, and
counsellors, through which they learn series of culturally relevant skills to facilitate their
survival in a new cultural environment. As the student said:
“I also tried to be a friend with local students because they know much more
about their education system and how teacher evaluate students. I tried to
develop my relationship with teachers, and I consulted the head of the
department whenever I had a problem in my studies” (Student: 2017)
Another student who used to isolate herself form local people stated that:
“I made two close friends in the class. They are more than friends now. They
taught me how to speak Indonesian language. They always translate whenever
I don’t understand the word. This is how I learnt to speak Indonesian Language
quickly” (Student: 2017).
Also, student who used to keep quite in the class confessed:
“It is funny that my bahasa (Indonesian language) is getting better now,
because I hang out with local students. One day my classmates were amazed
when they heard me saying matur suwon (thank you in Javanese dialect)
instead of terima kasih (thank you in formal Indonesian language). I feel that I
am improving to speak Indonesian language” (Student: 2018)
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African students managed to understand Indonesian language and manifest
behaviors that are understood in the host culture through being in contact with the native
speakers. Additionally, they consulted their academic advisors whenever they had a
problem. Thus, helped to minimize the stress they had when study abroad.
Third, responses from the interview showed that students learnt social behavior
patterns by observing and participating in the daily life of the host culture, and questioning.
This helped them to reduce stress and make it easier to accept the fact that culture and
behaviors in the new setting make sense and are logical as in their own countries. One
student explained that they had a special program, where they learnt about Indonesian
language and culture in general. Another student informed that: “I participated in different
cultural trips, where I had a chance to learn budaya (culture). We practiced tari indonesia
(Indonesian dance). It is funny that I can dance some of their dances” (Student: 2018).
This indicated that many students blended in Indonesian culture by participating in
different community activities with local people. They showed high self-esteem and
enjoyed the intercultural blending while studying in Indonesia.
Fourth, students created friendship with other non-compatriot foreign student, from
which they drive mutual social support and enjoy some social recreational activities. The
student reported that; “I made friendships with many international students because we
share the same situation. I participated in some recreational activities with them” (student:
2017). However, besides, being in a non-English speaking country, student had improved
their language competence, as one of them admitted that: “I improved my English,
because I always use English when hanging out with foreign students (countrymen
excluded) in this non-English speaking”. African students participated in structured peer-
program, where they could spend more informal leisure with their peers. Therefore, led to
better social adjustment among African students in new cultural environment (Zhou et al.,
Fifth, student also declared that Airlangga Global Engagement (AGE) had facilitated
much towards their adjustment while studying at Airlannga university. The named
organization had been taking care of the foreign students (African students inclusively)
since their arrival in Indonesia. The organization always organize cultural trips where
students could learn and practice Indonesian culture. “I remember we were sent to Pusat
Pendidikan Lingkungan Hidup (PPLH) Seloliman Trawas (Center for Environmental
Education in Seloliman Trawas) to learn how to conserve environment in Indonesia, how
to prepare traditional medicines and others” (student: 2017). Additionally, AGE, assign
buddies to assist international students ease their adaptation in the alien culture especially
in language barrier, searching for accommodations and others. However, their number is
still a challenge for example a group of ten student, is assigned with two or three buddies.
5. Conclusion
This study explored the aspects and effects of culture shock encountered by African
students when studying in Indonesian Universities and attempted to investigate the coping
strategies from the perspective of ABC model of culture shock. Through interview of ten
African students’ cultural experiential accounts from 2016, 2017 and 2018, the reposes
showed that almost every African student had experienced culture shock. They had shown
stress (in new education system, food, social value and living condition), anxiety,
loneliness and isolation through language barrier. Such situation implicated students
academic and social life while studying in Indonesia. It is found that they had tried adapting
Astelia Mihayo. 2(1): 1-13
ELS Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities
and adjusting themselves to a new cultural environment, including integrating themselves
with local people, participating in cultural activities, learning Indonesian language, and
creating friendship with other non-compatriots’ foreign students. However, the degree of
adaptation and adjustment varies from one individual to another depending on individual’s
personality and attitude towards the foreign culture. Some students were not motivated
enough to learn Idonesian language hence it took long time for them to know the foreign
language. However, the study has found that African students obviously experience higher
degree of culture shock when compared to other international students such as Asian
based (Thailand, Malaysia, China and others).
Based on the study’s conclusion, the study recommends the following on students
planning to study abroad. First, before embarking to abroad for education, it is very
important to understand the mechanism and consequences of study abroad and shape
their knowledge of how these experience function worldwide. Second, students should
develop positive attitudes towards alien culture, in order to ease their adaptation and
adjustment in abroad. Third, students should accept and appreciate the cultural difference
that exists in host country. Fourth, it is advisable for universities to pair foreign students
with local students to ease students’ adaptation into a new culture. Finally, the Airlangga
Global Engagement (AGE) should not be left to welfare and migration affairs of the
students only. Rather it should be combined with university academic departments, such
as faculties, schools and others aimed towards facilitating the international students’
I would like to thank Airlangga Global Engagement (AGE) for granting the permission
to conduct this study. I also owe a debt of gratitude to International students studying at
Airlannga University who contributed in one way or another to the completion of this study.
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