My education as I first moved from my country Saudi Arabia into theUnited States marked the biggest transformation in my life. It iscommon knowledge that as we move between countries or regions, wemust encounter numerous variations in the people’s modes of lifethat affect the way we see and experience the environment. This wasnot an exception to me as I moved from a country characterized byvery hot days into a country with cold weather without forgetting thelanguage barrier that presented the first difficulty incommunication. In summary, cultural differences ranging fromlanguage, beliefs, weather to means of socialization presented aunique environment that I feel comfortable to share.
To my surprise, upon arrival in the United States I found that I hadto learn English to be able to communicate with my instructors andclassmates who did not understand my Arabic language. Because it wasmy second language, which does not share any similarities regardinggrammar or nature of words with Arabic, it was very difficult tograsp and retain the words. Therefore, I relied mostly on theassistance of my instructor. However, having realized my problem, myinstructor set a target of ten new words every day that she testedwhether I had grasped them at the end of the month where the totalnumber of words had accumulated to three hundred words. Retaining thelarge number of words was really a difficult task that forced me tobe always pronouncing English words and constructing sentences at alltimes to ensure that I did not forget. However, as time passed, theease with which I grasped new words increased and soon I starteddeveloping a positive attitude towards the learning process. Inaddition, my ability to communicate continued to widen the degree Icould socialize with my classmates, which also encouraged me.Moreover, I used to rent books from the library and read throughthem to improve my command in English.
My first place to start taking my studies was Wisconsin that isamong the coldest states in the world. As a Saudi Arabian coming froma country with hot climate, I found myself as living inside arefrigerator, which caused discomfort as I tried to adapt. Inaddition, I faced travelling problems because I had no personal carand I had to cycle through the cold weather as I went to class. Incampus, I could hardly make movements and socialize with friends andspent most of the time reading in the library to catch up with theheavy workload that my instructor gave me. Geographical differences,in this case, presented numerous barriers because of the differencesin the weather as well as the modes of transportation, which made meappear isolated from other students.
Differences in culture between my home country and the United Statesmade me feel to be in a new world because of the new morals, beliefsand cultural values. The American Culture was the best class that Itook, which exposed me to the various unique cultures that describedthe American people. This class enabled me to identify the mostfavorable games and sporting activities including basketball andboxing that I heavily appreciated. This enhanced my understandingconcerning the need of increasing interaction with the indigenousstudents to help in narrowing the cultural gap. Therefore, Iparticipated in various sporting activities through various ways suchas expressing interest to minimize my isolation and increasefriendship. In addition, participation in these activities helped togrow my English and communication skills, which also provided anopportunity to understand more about United States culture.
Furthermore, differences in beliefs between American colleagues andme tended to cause isolation. For example, I sometimes found myselfin great shock when I saw Americans doing something that I consideredtotally different and sinful. For example, in one day, which Iremember to be the first day of April, I was sitting on the frontseat during the American culture class when the director of theinstitute suddenly entered with my instructor. The director then toldthe class that our instructor had won a lottery ticket worth onehundred million US dollars. The whole class suddenly stood up andstarted screaming and slapping. To my surprise, he told us that itwas the April fool day. This was quite shocking to me as I had neverheard about the existence of such day in my home country andmisleading somebody is a sinful act under all conditions. Indeed, itcame clear to me that the United States has its own unique culturalbeliefs and values that were different from those of my home country.
During interaction with my American colleagues, I was very surprisedto find that they talked very little concerning their families. Inmost cases I heard them speaking about personal growth and enrichmentand what one intended to do or be in the future. One day, itgenerated great shock when I hinted that I would be away for one weekto attend a family function in my home country. One of my colleaguesasked about the family function and he was surprised when I said itwas my brother’s marriage. He expressed a lot of concern and toldme that excessive concentration on family issues will hinder personaldevelopment and retard my academic progress. However, to me it wasdifficult to imagine a situation where I could live without highfocus on family issues and felt frustrated when I found myselfisolated from my family. The idea that my colleagues were presentingwas that excessive concentration on family issues producesundesirable psychological effects that retard concentration on whatbest benefits personal life and growth. In this way, I found hard tochange my focus and start thinking personally, as an individualrather than considering me as a single element from a big family thatI had to struggle in meeting its demands and desires. Success, inthis regard came from where one has reached based on the obstaclesthat had overcome rather than what would do for the family.
The other difficulty that I faced was the differences in thecommunication style used by my instructor and American colleagues inclass. There was the use of very direct language even when addressingsensitive issues and mostly insisted on truth, reality and thoughtfulpresentation of facts. To my understanding, directness was rude andasking questions or interrupting the instructor was an act ofindiscipline. However, I learnt that both my colleagues andinstructor were not happy with the idea of remaining silent andcaused frustrations when I used indirect language to present myfacts. To that point, I had to learn the American way of strictadherence to facts and formal procedures and use directness indescribing a particular concept. This was unique on my part andpresented a very significant change that was totally in opposition tothe communication style in my home country. I remember one day whenall my fellow students felt disgusted when I was responding to aquestion from the instructor expressing that I was taking too long toexplain a simple fact. My instructor told me that the use of directlanguage and short time to explain an idea proves understanding andmastery of the concept and helps to prevent monotony to the audience.Therefore, I adjusted my perception and soon I was used to the idea,hence I focused directly on the subject with minimum introductorystatements that soon made my colleagues and instructor to find me inthe right track.
My journey as a college student in the United States presented thebiggest transformation in my life as I struggled to adapt to the newenvironment with different unique conditions. English presented aserious barrier because I had to learn it as my second language.Cultural differences generated shocks and tended to isolate me frommy colleagues and prevent socialization. However, learning the newway of American life helped in bridging the cultural gap that fueledmy academic development. The communication style hindered my learningprocess in class during expression of my views. Collision betweenindividualism and collectivism tended to limit my academic progressand personal development. Unfavorable weather conditions alsopresented difficulties in my academic progress before I adapted.