Going to school in not only a different area but also a different country is a huge achievement and as an international student I applaud you. I hail from New Delhi, India and all my life I had been preparing to attend college in the United States. I come from a background where my family and friends instilled in me the love for reading and as I grew up a flair for all American shows and movies. My reading, movies and songs all prepared me for the life here. I had read all the classics, knew all the “famous” artists, and had watched plenty of tv and movies to know what to expect.
One would see me and say “she’s definitely ready for the college life there.” However, quite the opposite happened. The culture still seemed to have taken me aback. I came from the best co-ed school in India and my family was very happily unorthodox. I remember my parents telling me that despite all my knowledge I would be a bit surprised and I was. The fact that I have boys living next-door or how people perceive India was shocking.
From one international student to another I believe you should be prepared for people asking you the most basic questions about your country. From experience, I have learnt that one shouldn’t get hassled or frustrated as they are just trying to find out more and believe me, they are very fascinated by you. I have also learnt that you must show the love you have for your country. People want to know more about you, your country—the prouder you are of coming from, say India, the less ‘out of your element’ you’ll feel.
‘Culture shock’ isn’t meant to scare you but to make you stronger and more aware. You must accept that whatever you’ve learnt, read and watched is not the same. It’s going to be different from your rules, norms and way of living. The teaching will also be different. For example, in India the exams were all based on memorization and the schools didn’t focus thinking analytically or critically. The beauty of studying here is that they train our minds to think holistically and to analyze. You may have difficulty adjusting in the beginning but if you work hard and attend all your classes, you will sail through.
As an international student, you shouldn’t be afraid of asking questions or for help. To adjust better, the whole first quarter I asked my roommate questions about anything that I wasn’t familiar with or wasn’t prepared to deal with. As an international student one of the best ways to expand your knowledge on how to better adjust is to make friends with people of different backgrounds. Don’t stick to people from your country, have different groups, who can help you with things you’re unprepared for.
Lastly, I encourage you all to come without any preconceived notions of how college life is going to be like. I regret to have not left my thoughts, ideas and biases behind as I now know that I could have adjusted better and faster. One thing I can tell you, however, is that you’ll have the best 4 years of your life here if you make it count.