Carrying two big cases with my excitement and nervousness, I came to the U.S. on January 14th, 2018.
The reasons why I’ve decided to study abroad are too many to list, but the biggest one is the fact that I wanted to learn about another culture. I was born and raised in Japan, so I’d never lived in another country before. As you might know, Japan is homogeneous; 98 percent of people there are Japanese. Of course, they speak Japanese, and there is no diversity. Since I was a child, I have been curious about what is like living with people who have different cultures, who are from different countries, and who have different views.
After my arrival, I found some interesting aspects of living in the U.S. People drive on the right. Nobody cares about a man singing loud on the train. The staffs at the shop are very friendly but are checking their phones instead of customers. People in line talk to strangers, even to me. Many squirrels are running around the park, instead of the zoo! How many things are opposite of my home country!?
Although all I mentioned above are just superficial things that I was noticed at first, there are many more I was surprised by.
My college, the College of Staten Island, the City University of New York, held the orientation for international students, where I found the majority of students could speak English fluently, even though they came from other countries. I was shocked because (A) I had difficulty speaking English and (B) until then, I’d forgotten many countries had English as a common language. And I found speaking English difficult so I lost my confidence that I will survive college life here. In addition, I was deeply homesick at that time. Since we have 14-hour time difference (13-hour in summer), it wasn’t easy to communicate with my family. Only time could solve this problem.
Gradually, I got accustomed to living here. One of the biggest, positive changes has been having friends. I remember we hung out in Manhattan and that we chatted at the cafeteria on campus. Not only my friends but my English professor, my host family, and the international student office staff members supported me. Whenever I ask something, they are willing to help me. I’m a lucky person, meeting such kind people.
My second semester in the U.S. has just begun. I’m already exhausted because of all the homework, feeling “this is American college life!” I am also excited about learning new things and being a part of this new world?
Ayaka is a Japanese 24-year-old transfer student at the College of Staten Island, the City University of New York. She is majoring in Sociology.