Studying abroad has been my dream since I was in elementary school. Today I’ve finally achieved it here at TU. As usual, the sweet comes with the bitter. Problems that I ran into, and am still running into now, were unimaginable before I came here.
The first thing I, or any other international student, hears about before going to another country is culture shock. It sounds easy to think of examples and advice to deal with it, but it’s not. When I was in an English writing class for international students my professor said, “Culture shock? You never know when it will come.” And yeah, he was right.
My first US and also TU experience was orientation, which was so helpful and informative. It helps us shape the culture and customs here, and taught us some tips of what we should do.
I almost bit my tongue when I heard that Americans are direct and honest. They don’t have bad personalities, they just sound bitter to me. Where I’m from, manners matter more. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be honest, but it means you shouldn’t be too direct.
For example, when you’re complaining or showing disagreement, choosing careful words will help the other feel better when they hear it. And it’s easier for them to accept what you said as well. Being too honest and saying things directly can be considered rude and lacking respect, especially to an older person.
The same applies to classrooms. Growing up, if you want to ask something you raise your hand in silence until you get called. Comments are very rare, you can only talk or leave the room when the professor allows, and of course eating is prohibited. That’s why when I came here, learning has become much more relaxing and active as well as flexible. Each professor has their own demands, which surprises me a lot.
The biggest challenge for almost every international kid I believe, is language. My English isn’t that bad, and I have a little more than needed for the language requirements to come here. But still, slangs and phrases I’ve never heard before keep bumping into my ears, followed by awkward moments when I don’t know why everybody’s laughing.
And I can’t forget those tough times in class when I keep flipping my textbook pages trying to figure out what the professor’s talking about. I remember my first semester here, I was in Calc I, and after class, instead of reviewing the math formulas and equations, I looked up tons of words and phrases in the dictionary, tried to read books beforehand, found new words and looked up some more.
Now, here I am, at TU as a sophomore. I can’t stop remembering the old days. They were tough, but really worth the effort. I’ve never regretted anything, and will always be thankful of all that has happened and led me to where I am today. About culture shock, I still don’t know if it has come or not, but I know I’m ready to greet it with a smile.