As a new visitor in the United States, interns and trainees may experience something called "culture shock" at some point during their program. This is a common experience for travelers when they enter a new environment that is different from their home country, but the symptoms may vary for each person.
Here are 4 tips on managing culture shock and on helping international J-1 interns and trainees adjust to their time in the United States:
1. Be patient when an intern or trainee is speaking English. Our participants are carefully screened and fluent in English, but if English isn't an intern's first language they may stumble over a word or speak slowly. Being immersed in a new culture can be overwhelming, so be patient with new interns and trainees! Their language skills and confidence will only improve as the program goes on, but it's helpful to be patient in the first few weeks of the program. It can take a little while to feel comfortable speaking in a completely new environment.
2. Be clear about office rules and etiquette: International interns and trainees will be entering a new country with different customs than their own. Be clear about the rules of the office and general etiquette so there is one less thing to worry about and second guess. For example, explain the dress code, etiquette in meetings and shared office spaces, privacy in the work place, and other helpful tips that make the work day run smoothly.
3. Suggest cultural exchange activities. Introduce American culture in a fun and friendly way to help interns and trainees enjoy their experience in the U.S. For example, organize a fun day out with work colleagues at a nearby attraction or throw a potluck in the office with everyone's favorite food. See our Cultural Compass guide for more ideas on how interns and trainees can experience American culture.
4. Be ready to listen. A new intern or trainee may be overwhelmed by their early days in a new office, so just be welcoming and ready to listen if they have any questions about their role at your organization. We also recommend this resource on Culture Shock and the cultural differences in the United States for international visitors. Find more information on hiring and international intern or trainee on the Career Training USA website!
Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Ani is a fan of exploring new places through photography and the local cuisine. After earning her BFA in photography from NYU and gaining communications experience at International Planned Parenthood Federation, she joined InterExchange in 2012, and worked as the Marketing Producer until 2016.