international student life

international student

Culture shock for International Students:

New Environment, Cultures, Mannerisms, Lifestyles, Foods and more.

When you arrive in a foreign country, especially to the United States, you will undoubtedly have new and confusing experiences that may leave you bewildered.

Some people get so disoriented and homesick that they go back to their home countries without completing their studies. However, with some perseverance, you can overcome these difficulties..

Immediately after landing in the United States, you will find the airport so huge and busy, with thousands of people everywhere. It will remind you of the movies. Try not to be overwhelmed. Just take it easy and enjoy the scenery.

In the first few days, you may venture out to the big city, you will find extremely large skyscrapers that will amaze you as you look up to stare at them. You will also notice the very wide highways, with people driving on the right side of the road, in huge cars and trucks. In many other countries, people drive smaller cars on the left side of the road. Here in America, they love their huge SUV's and trucks although they are slowly changing to smaller cars.

If you happen to take a bus, you will notice that there is no bus conductor to collect fare. There is only the driver. You pay fare to the driver in cash or bus pass. The driver does not carry change so you need to have the exact bus fare.

If you venture out to the outskirts of the city, you will be surprised to discover the type of houses many Americans live in. In other countries, many people live in brick homes. Here, many people live in wooden houses that may seem small from the outside although they have a lot of room inside, including a basement.

Then you will encounter the people themselves. When I first came to America, I thought this is a land of giants. Most people looked so big compared to people in my country.

You will also notice that most people will smile at you when you meet them. Don't assume they like you very much, they are just being nice. It's the culture here to be nice to everybody. American people are not very direct in their conversations. They will not tell you things directly for fear of offending you. So be patient and try to learn the nuances of the language here.

Another thing you should be careful about is eating out. If an American friend invites you out to a restaurant for lunch or dinner, don't assume they will pay your bill because they invited you. Each person is expected to pay their own bill unless they specifically offer to pay. So be careful before accepting such invitations to eat out.

American English is a little different from British English used in many parts of the world. There are some differences in spelling too. For example, they will use the word pants for trousers, borrow for lend, car hood for car bonnet, trunk for boot, truck for lorry e.t.c. Some examples of spelling differences include color vs colour, humor vs humuor etc.

One great thing you will discover is that there are people from all over the world in America. You will be surprised to find people who were once enemies in their home country becoming friends in this country. That's the great magic of America.

While on campus, you may be impressed by the apparent affluence of most American students. You will find that almost all students have cars and carry around expensive electronic gadgets like laptops, cameras, cellphones etc. This will impress you at first but you will get used to this in time.

You will also discover that most people here work extremely hard. It is almost the norm to have students work part-time while taking full-time course load at college. In many other countries, students just study and don't have to work while in school.

Unlike in many other countries, athletes are revered here. The very good ones make huge sums of money and everybody admires them.

The American Military is another thing that will not escape your attention. In my home country, I never saw the military in normal day to day life. Here in America, the military is a big part of life for almost every citizen. A huge number of college students are also soldiers. The military pays for their college in exchange for their service.

I remember that my former college class of 30 students had 20 students in the military and the other 10 were foreign students. So, virtually all American students in that class were military men and women.

Acceptance of debt is another thing you will discover here. Unlike in other countries, most people here are not bothered about having debt, be it credit cards debts, loans or purchasing things on credit. Most people have some form of debt or another. When I came here, I never had debt and had to save until I could afford whatever I wanted. I was surprised to see people buying things on credit and paying for them for years. This may help in some cases but I would advise International students to try and stay away from debt as much as they can.

Most American people have a liberal lifestyle compared to other parts of the world. Many things that may shock you are normal occurrences here. I remember in my first month in the country, some American friends took me to Hooters, a restaurant where the waitresses are dressed only in underwear and bra. When I looked inside the restaurant, I was so shocked that I refused to go inside despite of my friends assurances that it was fine. I imagined what a scandal it would create if my parents knew I went to such a place. Eventually, after a few months, I was able to relax, go to hooters and had a good time with my friends.

You will also notice gay people live openly without fear and are proud of their sexuality. This is in contrast to some other countries where you can face the death penalty for being gay.

If you watch television, you may find some daytime shows like Jerry Springer, Maury and others that may shock you at first. Just try not to make any bad comments when in the presence of American people in spite of what you think. You'll get used to the shows after some time.

Currency is another issue. When you go shopping, you may find things to be either expensive or cheap depending on the exchange rate of your country's currency to the Dollar. At first you will try to convert the Dollar price to your country's currency to figure it out. This can leave you in shock sometimes. I remember the first time I went to buy bread. It cost $1.50. I convert that to my country's currency and was shocked to discover I could buy four loaves of bread for the same amount in my country. I did not buy bread that day. After a few days, I found the nerve to buy bread.

The Measurement System is another thing that you'll find different. Americans have not converted to the metric system and you will initially have difficulties figuring out what their measurements mean. They have Miles , yards, feet, inches, pounds and ounces instead of kilometers, meters, centimeters, kilograms, grams etc. It will take some time to figure out these measurements, so be patient and try to learn.

Food is another thing you will find different. There are many different kinds of foods here and most will taste strange in the beginning. I remember the first time I tasted pizza, I thought it tasted like rubber. Try out different kinds of foods and you will eventually get used to them. However, there are also many high calorie fast foods, also referred to junk foods that you should try to avoid. These foods, combined with sedentary lifestyle make people fat and overweight. Try not to put on too much weight because this will give you health problems in future and will be hard to get rid of.