Success in Your First Year

Cultural Adjustment

Being immersed in a different culture is a wonderful opportunity for growth! You will learn how to improve communication cross-culturally and become more appreciative of other cultures as well as your own. Living abroad is a fun and very rewarding experience. As you learn, you might make mistakes. Our advice for now: don't worry, relax, keep your humor and be informed of the adjustment process.

Emerging Differences

As you become more involved in activities and gradually get to know the people around you, differences might become increasingly apparent to you. Over time, these differences may seem more irritating than interesting or quaint. Small incidents and difficulties may make you anxious and concerned about how best to carry on with academic and social life. As these differences emerge, they can be troubling and sometimes shocking. This emotional state is called "culture shock." Culture shock does not happen all at once. It is a feeling that grows little by little as you interact with other students, faculty, and people in the community.

Coping with Culture Shock

Students are sometimes unaware of the fact that they are experiencing culture shock. There are ways to deal with this period of culture shock. Learning about culture shock before you arrive in the USA will help ease this experience. The most effective way to combat culture shock is to step back from a given event that has bothered you, assess it, and search for an appropriate explanation and response.

Below, are strategies you can use to ease the adjustment process:

  • Settle into your living space as much as possible. Put up pictures of your family, listen to music you enjoy, and try to get settled as quickly as possible.
  • Get involved. Join a student organization, play a sport, perform community service, or anything else you enjoy doing. These activities will help you make friends and take your mind off your homesickness.
  • Establish a routine. Try to keep regular eating and sleeping habits, and to do at least one activity you look forward to on a regular basis at the same time each week.
  • Be physically active. This can improve your mental and physical health. Many CC students find that participation in outdoor activities---hiking, biking, jogging, mountain climbing---can be an especially good way to get exercise, relieve stress and enjoy the beauty of Colorado.
  • Talk to other international students. While international students who've been here some time may seem very happy and well-adjusted, it probably wasn't easy for them in the beginning, either. Ask them what they did that helped the most.

Although it can be disconcerting and a little scary, the "shock" gradually eases as you begin to understand the new culture. It is useful to realize that often the reactions and perceptions of others toward you---and you toward them---are not personal evaluations but are based on a clash of cultural values. The more skilled you become in recognizing how and when cultural values and behaviors are likely to come in conflict, the easier it becomes to make adjustments that can help you avoid serious difficulties.

Culture shock is felt differently by different people; however, many international students experience it in the following stages:

  • Euphoria - The first few hours, days or weeks abroad are often characterized by feelings of excitement and elation. Everything seems new and interesting. You can't believe you're finally here!
  • Irritability and Hostility - Once the initial "honeymoon" phase subsides, differences between your own culture and the U.S. begin to seem more pronounced, and a sense of alienation can set in. Everything seems so different and there are so many challenges to cope with. This stage is often characterized by feelings of frustration, insecurity, withdrawal and depression.
  • Gradual Adjustment - With time, you'll begin to orient yourself to a different set of cultural practices and feel increasingly comfortable and confident in your new surroundings. Your sense of humor, which may have been lying dormant for a while, will reemerge.
  • Reentry or Reverse Culture Shock - Upon returning home, you will be faced with integrating your life in the U.S. with your life at home. You may feel disoriented, out of place or changed by your experience in a way that makes relating to family and friends difficult.

Sometimes students worry about "losing their culture" if they become too adapted to the host culture. Don't worry: it is virtually impossible to lose the culture in which you were raised. In fact, learning about the new culture often increases your appreciation for and understanding of your own culture. Don't resist the opportunity to become bicultural, able to function competently in two cultural environments.

Academic Life

The Block Plan

The Block Plan was invented at Colorado College in 1970 and has remained a distinguishing feature of the college ever since. Only one other college in the U.S. has a similar academic system. The Block Plan divides the academic year into eight 3 1/2 week segments or "blocks." Students take, and faculty teach, one block at a time. (Each block is equivalent to four hours of credit under a semester system.) In between each block, students have four days off to relax and prepare for their next class.

Please view our Pre-Arrival Guide for information on the following:

  • Academic Expectations
  • A Typology of Classes
  • Strategies for Academic Success
  • The First-Year Experience
  • Faculty Advisors

Student Services

There are many people at Colorado College dedicated to providing services to students. Visit the Pre-Arrival Guide for an overview of just a few of the offices that strive to meet students' needs.

Get Involved


From competitive athletes to thrill-seeking skiers to leisurely hikers, CC students run the recreational gamut. Whatever your skill level, athletic interest, or outdoor pursuit, you're likely to find it here. Visit the Athletics & Recreation webpage for all the details.

Student Organizations

With over 100 active student organizations, and the opportunity to create new ones, CC provides an opportunity for every student to be involved. Student organization involvement is one way that CC provides the chance to build lifelong friendships, to grow personally, to develop as a leader, to engage in community service and much more. You can find information about all of the Student Organizations on their webpage.

Report an issue - Last updated: 12/17/2020