Most of the international students I have come to know in the past year all have their version of the American dream, different from each other yet similar at many levels. Most internationals, including myself have intentionally or unintentionally fostered a stereotypical image of America, of the American dream probably all our lives. Most of us have grown up watching American cartoons, sitcoms and movies. And when this dream does not live up to our expectations, we are disappointed.
When I came to America, I was ecstatic. I had never been so independent and free in my life, coming from the culture that I did. I was excited because I had an image of how my life in America was going to be like. I thought I had seen it all in the movies, that all the culture shocks that people back home said I would experience wouldn’t affect me, I had a plethora of movies and visited America 5 times. I was confident that I wouldn’t miss home except sometimes the food and the convenience. And so, as expected, the first few weeks at Clark for me were amazing and liberating.
But then reality struck, I wasn’t used to the way people here behaved, connected, ate, spoke etc. The family and classroom dynamics were reversed. Everything, from the measurements to the language was different. Sometimes, I felt left out as I couldn’t be a part of an activity because I wasn’t used it. I went to a dance on campus, and couldn’t stay there for more than 10 minutes as people didn’t dance like that back home, people here sometimes didn’t understand my accent and almost no one could say my name right. Professors asked me to call me by their first names; back home they would make me stand outside the classroom if I did so. Bottom line, I thought all of this is wrong and that I couldn’t wait for winter break so I could go back.
One wise decision that I made during the early few weeks was that I involved myself with a lot of organizations on and off campus. At the same time, I kept constant contact with home and stayed connected to my culture through the cultural groups on campus. The most important thing was that I started talking, sharing my feelings and concerns with people and started using the various resources on campus. People explained to me that we shouldn’t judge other cultures as wrong just because they aren’t similar to ours. We should just embrace them as different.
Most internationals go through this transitional period, the dilemma of right and wrong, regardless of where they are from and how different their cultures are. My only advice to people going through or approaching this transition is, don’t let go. There will be times where giving up and going back home will seem like the best solution. But believe me, it’s not worth it. Try and get busy and involved on campus, go out, have fun, discover Worcester. Use the ample resources available around campus, talk to people, your RAs, your advisors or just a professor you’re fond of. People at Clark are always ready to help if you want to be helped. You won’t stop missing home; you never should in my opinion. But, you’ll learn an effective and productive way to wait.