I am very thrilled to talk about my personal experience as an international student who came to the U.S. in 2010.
I remember I was extremely excited to start my journey in the U.S. after spending my whole life in Turkey. I came here to do my Master’s degree, and chose sunny Florida so that I would not miss my hometown, Izmir, for this prolonged time.
As you can see from the pictures below, my hometown is on the coast and I had never experienced snow in my life. There are also palm trees where you would walk along the bay. So I chose to study in Miami, where there is water, palm trees, and warm weather throughout the year. Do you see the resemblance?
When I first landed in Miami, I watched the people, trees, sky, and my overall surroundings; I eventually realized that the air I was breathing in was so different compared to Turkey. I always associate smells to the places I have been, and this was a new smell: it was “Miami, Florida, smell.”
One of the questions I get a lot is if I had culture shock. My answer is two-sided: yes and no. It is “yes” because in Turkey the majority of people were raised there; I only had a couple of friends who were exchange students from different countries. My other answer to this question is “no,” because in the U.S. there is a melting pot of different cultures, especially in Miami. Everyone embraced me and wanted to learn more about my culture; in return, I was able to learn more about their cultures.
It takes a while to get used to your surroundings in a different country, no question about that.
I’m excited to share some tips that helped me a lot and took my mind off of missing my family, friends, and country:
(1) Think about this as a great opportunity to learn.
You came here to study, and doing that will definitely get you to great places and keep you busy, but learning and studying is not limited to your program. If you look around the city and state that you are living in, there are a lot of things to learn, such as history, culture, religion, foods, music, etc. You will see that it will bring you lots of joy when you talk to your family and friends back home regarding what you learned in addition to your studies. Would you agree that it is more fun to talk about what you learned about a country than about classes?
(2) You may never experience this again.
You may be busy working on your undergraduate degree and making plans to do your post-graduate degree after you finish your program, so you are always focused on studying. Even though it may seem like the next step a long way to go, it really isn’t. Time passes by very quickly in the rush of studying, getting used to your life in a different country, and planning for your next steps after graduation. I will admit that I forgot to experience my life in the U.S. until I was halfway through my program. Please do not make my mistake – study and plan hard, but experience hard as well.
(3) You can enhance your English.
If you are not originally from an English-speaking country, you have this great chance in front of you to improve your English skills. You may have the best English grammar and vocabulary when you arrive, but living in an English-speaking country is very different than what you accomplished back home. In Turkey, I was called “the American Girl” because my English was much better than anybody else’s, including my teachers. When I came to the U.S., I realized that I was missing a great deal as far as vocabulary was concerned. There are a lot of words and phrases used daily in the U.S. that come from social media, movies, songs, and the culture itself. My suggestion is to make friends with people who were raised in the U.S. and pick their brains about learning and integrating new words and sayings in your daily life. You will become a part of the culture in no time. And trust me, it takes years to embed it in your language.
I have a lot more tips to make this international journey more fun so you can forget about your culture shock.
Although, I am realizing that everything I mentioned above shaped my life in the U.S! I am now living in the U.S. permanently and working in one of the best places I would have ever imagined: helping international students like myself achieve their education goals every single day.
Please take into consideration how to make the most out of your life in the U.S., and I believe each one of you will come up with and share additional tips to make all of the international students’ lives easier and enjoyable here.