Coming to the land of Uncle Sam was not an easy decision to make. I have, for quite some time, dreamt about attending a college in the States, but I never thought I was ready, and I had all these fears in my head. I always thought that I would be too homesick and wouldn’t be able to cope with college life. However, the transition and adaptation turned out to be much smoother. America, as I like to call it, is a happy place to be.
One of the first things I realized about Americans is that they are exceptionally friendly and welcoming.
I don’t even understand how they can maintain such a high level of kindness for such a long period of time. When you step into a store, there will always be a store attendant to greet you and assist you with any difficulties you might have. This was a shock to me, as my experience in Indonesia was the opposite of this. Whenever I visit a bookstore, I would always take ages to decide which book to buy, and as a result, I end up staring at the books for half an hour.
The rather annoying part is when, after staring at a book for 5 minutes, I would realize that there is a store attendant at the end of the isle, just staring at me like I’m about to steal something. I know she’s probably trying to see whether anyone needs any assistance, but I’m pretty sure there are other nicer and less creepy ways of doing that. Ten minutes would pass by, and I would spot the same attendant just pacing the rows of books, making sure that things are in order and that the customers are doing fine. I try to appreciate the ‘assistance’ provided by these store attendants, but it never works and I end up feeling a little bit creeped out.
This experience is completely different from my experience in America. Everyone is always so chipper and warm, and it makes my day a whole lot better. Another thing I have realized about America is how much Americans value uniqueness. For the most part, I spent my childhood in countries where it’s not okay to stick out like a sore thumb.
I have always been taught to work as a group and learn about teamwork. I’m not saying that teamwork is bad, but I feel that besides being able to work as a group, everyone should also have the chance to develop their talents and skills. As a country of democracy, Americans deeply value freedom of opinions. Coming from an Asian background, I feel that growing up, I have at times been rather oppressed. I didn’t ask many questions in class, and even if I did raise my hand, it would just be to ask very relevant questions.
In America, I have seen many students raise their hand up in class just to say, “I thought the demonstration was awesome.” Or, other similar things such as, “I watched a movie last week and it was also talking about racial discrimination. I thought it was pretty cool.” I am usually afraid to ask questions in class because I fear that they would just be a waste of time, or because I think it’s a stupid question and that everyone will probably laugh at me. However, in America, I am taught the opposite. There is never a stupid question, and don’t be shy to ask questions in class. You never know until you ask.
Last but not least, I have also realized how Americans are extremely informal. In Indonesia, I would most likely get slapped in the face or be frowned upon by society when I called someone older than me by just their first name. However, this practice of not calling older people by “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” or “Ms.” happens very frequently in America. In my first quarter at Green River, I attended the international student orientation, and I was surprised when my advisor introduced himself to me as just “Alvin.” Similarly, other staff introduced themselves by just their first names. In Indonesia, it is considered inappropriate to call someone just by their first name. Even if you’re referring to someone two years older than you, you still have to call them by a prefix. So far, my one-year stay in the States has been a very pleasant one. Not only have I learnt so much in college, but I have also become a more confident and friendly individual due to my experiences out of the classroom.
Post by Indira Pranabudi, an international student attending Green River Community College
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