Did moving to the United States feel like entering a new world?
When I moved overseas, I knew things would not be the same as the environment that I grew up in, and I was excited about that. I wanted to be immersed in a new culture, and I was ready. But even though I was prepared for things to be different, there were still moments that caught me by surprise or left me feeling confused and lost. It didn’t take long for me to realize: I am definitely not home anymore!
I couldn’t understand why simple tasks took a long time to complete, why my friends didn’t arrive or leave when I expected them to, or why I couldn’t seem to keep any of the plans I made. But as I observed people around me, I came to realize what was really happening: this new culture didn’t view time the same way I did; to me time was rigid, but to them time was fluid. Though I once found comfort in a perfectly planned schedule, I would have to adjust to a more flexible lifestyle.
During those years when I made my home in a foreign place, my classmates helped me form a healthy attitude about culture. We reminded each other that we were learners of the culture. Being a learner meant that I could admit that I didn’t have all the answers and I didn’t always understand the world I was living in—and that was okay. As a learner, I recognized that just because something was different, that didn’t mean it was wrong. And while no culture or nation is perfect, there’s a lot we can learn from each other. Each new challenge was an opportunity to learn something about myself and my perspective, about other people and their perspectives, and about the vastness and beauty of the world we share.
Maybe you feel completely overwhelmed by all the changes. Maybe there are more differences than similarities between American culture and your home culture.
Or, perhaps life in America is not very different from the country you came from, or the differences are smaller and less overwhelming than you expected.
Whether large or small, there are going to be differences. We at Bridges hope you feel prepared to face these challenges, and we will help you however we can. We are learning with you!
How can you be a learner of the new culture you’re living in?
- Ask questions! If you’re confused, find someone who can help you understand
- Notice, don’t ignore, the differences between your home culture and the new culture
- Get involved with student groups on your campus (like Bridges!) and meet new people who have a different background than you
- Try new foods, hobbies, and music, and explore new places
- Help your new friends be learners by sharing your culture with them
As it turns out, I came to love some of the aspects of the foreign culture that were confusing to me at first—so much so, that I continue to make them a part of my life. It is our hope that you have a positive experience learning culture, too!