WRITTEN BY KIM BROUGHTON
Just a few weeks ago, AWNY Committee Member and counsellor Susie Lang, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and a National Certified Counselor, facilitated an event series focused on working through the Emotional Transition of Moving to New York.
Given the emotional nature of the event, some attendees who came said they had been thinking about it many times before committing, as they had an ‘inkling’ that they wanted to be there. There was a really great group of women who gathered, all at different stages of their New York transition, starting from 2 weeks up to several years. It really demonstrates that Australian women need support and want to talk about their experience of ‘transition’ and ‘culture’ even after a long time in the USA.
One reasons I like being a part of AWNY is the familiar background we all have, I have this reassuring feeling that everyone is already my friend. It’s as if we have all known each other for years as a result of our shared cultural experience growing up in Australia.
I observed the same reassurance throughout this event; the majority of the attendees had not met before, yet were contributing with such vulnerability and honesty about a difficult topic. It was an expression closer to one shared between trusted friends, rather than strangers. This style of event, for me, was a really fantastic way to cut through the bullshit and talk about some of the more isolating aspects of living in this fabulous city.
Susie, our facilitator, did a great job of introducing the purpose of the session and walking the women through the stages of culture shock and the different feelings that arise through the transition process. Susie guided the conversation lightly by summarizing some of the stories we were hearing and giving them context.
The 3 different types of ‘Shock’ common to transition to a new country and culture are summarized below for those of you who couldn’t make it:
Culture Shock – four stages
- Honeymoon Stage – WOW, this is all new and exciting
- Disintegration Stage – starting to feeling unsettled, and maybe a little hostile. What we know as homesickness (a period of transition & healing) starts to settle in, along with feelings of incompetence, and being dissatisfied. You can also start to feel isolated and alone and question “what’s wrong with me?”
- Adjustment Stage – the encouraging beginnings of a new sense of direction.
- Adaptation Stage – now feeling increasingly confident in new surroundings and adapting well to the nuances of NYC.
- There is transition when returning home to Australia.
- Readjusting to our “old” culture where there is an expectation that life will be the same as when you left.
- The challenge is that you’ve changed and also others have changed in your absence.
- This is about the “Who am I?” question that comes up when you moved to a new city or country.
- In our birth countries, we grow up knowing the social norms and standards, and at home we have mirrors (our family and friends) to validate and affirm us when we are unsure.
- Within our new environment our mirror no longer exists as well as our familiar societal norms and standards.
- So in asking the question “Who am I?”, our new surroundings are now asking “Who are you?” which can sometimes be tricky to feel confident answering.
Within the ‘safe space’ of the event, the attendees opened up straight away and shared their feelings in response to the stages of shock. Each transition story was unique, and yet there were so many similar threads of experience and emotion – summoning agreement within the group!
This has been my favorite event so far! And one that I believe has helped not only give these women a chance to express these feelings, but a real chance to help themselves and form meaningful friendships – there was lots of swapping phone numbers at the end of the session.
Following on from this event, Susie Lang will be offering additional “On the Sofa with Susie” workshops for a deep dive exploration into Culture Shock, Self-Shock and how to take steps towards personal healing. These events are open to the AWNY community and more details will be available soon.
On the Sofa with Susie Workshop Series:
Dates: Wed Nov 30th, Wed Dec 7th, Wed Dec 14th, Wed Dec 21 2016
Morning Session: 9.30-11.30am Location W60th Street
Cost:$80 for 4 sessions
Evening Session: 7pm-9pm Location TBD
Cost: $100 for 4 sessions
Please contact Susie Lang to book your place now
Tel: (917) 494 3922
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