An interview with an international student about the theory of double culture shock

Lots of Navitas students are studying away from their home country and, for many, making a second cultural leap from a highly supportive college to a busier university environment.

The subtle, difficult experience of moving to a new culture is often referred to as “culture shock”. Its effects may be both psychological (for example loneliness, homesickness, or frustration with self or hosts) and physical (like headaches, stomach aches, or seeking to suppress bad feelings with too much eating, drinking and sleeping).

Hoffenburger et al 1999 WcurveThe W-Curve by Hoffenburger, Mosier and Stokes (1999) is a widely used visual aid to show how cultural adjustment can or cannot take place over a period of time and impact a person’s level of comfort, satisfaction and effectiveness. Beginning with a honeymoon period that delights in the exciting new surrounds, moving through culture shock to an initial adjustment, and for some who stay long enough they may experience mental isolation and, finally, acceptance and integration.

Do students relate to this theory of  culture shock and the W-curve?

Might students who go through pathway colleges experience a double culture shock – a second culture shock – coming from when they move from their college to the bigger university?

A first effort to capture and discuss these theories with our own students and alumni is captured below. Many thanks to EIC student Sophie Obuseli who shared her experiences, including:

  • expectations of Scotland before she arrived at EIC;
  • moving from Nigeria to Canada and then to Scotland for studies;
  • support that helped mitigate culture shock, primarily events that involved meeting new people;
  • the second culture shock of progressing from the college to the university and why some students might keep coming back to the college for help.


Watch below for a quick revision of:

  • what makes up culture;
  • culture shock and the double shock;
  • some potential barriers and solutions for education providers to keep in mind.


Culture impacts learning and teaching in so many ways. Share your own story or insights by getting in touch or talking with Marco Rossi via Yammer or email.