Coming to the United States of America for my higher studies is one of the most exciting and interesting experiences in my life. I still remember the excitement and anticipation on the eve of my arrival to the United States. I was also nervous about entering a society that is very different from my native culture. But now that I’ve spent a fair passage of time here, I’ve overcome my initial nervousness and assimilate fairly well with people. I can look back at my stay in the United States and pick valuable experiences that have helped me develop my personality. Some of these experiences have also strengthened my character. I’ve like to discuss some of these experiences in the following passages.
My challenges in being able to integrate well into American society started even before I could apply for college admission here. Indeed, it started with my English as Foreign Language examinations, which are requisite qualifications for University admissions in the United States. These were some of the toughest examinations I’ve faced. They proved challenging coz I only studied English as a auxiliary subject in my school, whereas the standards expected by the examination was relatively high. Hence, I had to put in plenty of hard work in overcoming my English language deficits. Moreover trying to get accustomed to the American accent, idiom and cultural references was a difficult task. In this regard, Hollywood proved to be a great help. As way of preparing for my examinations, I would watch a classic Hollywood film every day. And before long, I was able to get acclimatized with the American accent, cinematic style and cultural sensibilities of the nation. For me, the key lesson was to keep an open mind and try to understand a culture that is different to that of my own. This not only helped me learn English expeditiously, but also highlighted to me the artistic cinematic expression evident in Hollywood.
Coming to the key experiences that happened ‘after’ my arrival in the United States, I would cite my initial weeks in the student hostel as both instructive and formative. One of the fortunate facet to hostel life is that I was able to find other students from cultural backgrounds that are similar to mine. The foreign students in the hostel formed a tight-knit community, with similar aspirations, hesitations and limitations. As a team, we would encourage and comfort each other when someone becomes homesick or feels intimidated by the alien culture. Even American students were quite cordial and welcoming of us. The initial few weeks were a bit tough due to my moderate communication skills, but soon I was able to communicate with all students (foreign or American) without great difficulty. While my experience in making new friends has been largely positive, I should also mention the odd instance of racism or ethnic discrimination that I’ve encountered. But these instances were an exception rather than the rule. I learnt to be tolerant toward those who were unkind and appreciative of those who were kind.
I enjoyed the college life enormously. The world class infrastructure offered by the University is not something I could have dream of in my native country. I would even visit the library and other facilities just to soak in the atmosphere and delight in the ambience and access. The sprawling campus with its carefully planned layout, landscaping and architecture is a great source of pleasure. In the evenings, I would promenade the neatly manicured gardens and sidewalks of the campus along with my friends. We would discuss interesting topics discussed in the class and also try to integrate that knowledge with our socio-economic and cultural roots. I learnt how talking to people and trying to see their point of view can widen our perspectives and deepen our understanding of issues.
The periodic seminar presentations that all students are expected to give is both frightening and rewarding. I am someone who was has had issues with stage fright. Add an alien English accent and lack of fluency in using that language, my fright was compounded many times. Yet, the resilience and hard work I put in to conquer this fear has proved psychologically and socially rewarding. My public addresses to an audience have firstly removed a longstanding mental block from my psyche. Secondly, it has showcased my talents at research and presentation to many fellow students, making me quite popular in class. I was able to gain the confidence and trust of even those American students who kept aloof in the early days.
Just as my time spent within the campus has been extremely enriching, I gathered equally valuable life experience outside the academia. During the weekends, when I would go out with my hostel mates, I would renew my love for Hollywood by watching the latest blockbuster on show. I slowly started to feel very comfortable with American culture, thanks in large to my exposure to Hollywood. Visiting exotic restaurants and trying out different kinds of food is a hobby I developed in the weekend journeys. I’ve discovered a newfound love for French, Mexican and Indian cuisines.
The fact that I had to stay away from the cozy comforts of a home and learn to get along with people from diverse backgrounds in the hostel made me grow as a person. I learnt how to sacrifice certain comforts for the sake of politeness and solidarity in a team atmosphere. There is also the sudden lack of counsel and protection that my parents used to provide. Although telecommunication has kept me connected to them, there is no compensation for the geographic separation.
In sum, I would describe my experiences in the United States so far as very instrumental in my development into an adult. The odd setback I faced (for example, rare instances of ethnic discrimination) has only helped toughen my character. I would suggest to all other foreign students who are new to the United States, that they may find it discouraging during the early encounters with American culture and early exchanges with American people. But this discouragement comes out for irrational feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem, which one needn’t entertain. Based on my own experiences here, I would counsel that through perseverance and by adopting a relaxed mindset, the initial travails would be overcome. After that, staying in the United States is largely going to be enjoyable, educative and enriching.