I am French, and when I told my friends that I was going to be a student at a U.S. university, they all jumped everywhere and started screaming OMG! OMG! OMG!
Some of the first questions were: Are you going to live with a bunch of people in a big house and party everyday? Are you going to be a cheerleader? Are you going to spend your spring break in Miami? Are you going to wear this black square hat and black dress when you graduate?
Well, this is half of the reality…
Not that nothing is fun being a student at a U.S. university, but the goal of my two years here is to graduate. You may think about all the entertainment and distractions, but the level required is much more than some of the universities in France.
I believe that U.S. methods of education are way different from the ones in France. I cannot fail my semester, first, because I don’t think my parents would be glad to pay for an extra semester, and second, because if I failed, I’d be out. I cannot be like, “Okay I’m not going to read this 300-page book because this is not how we do it in France, and I was doing great without reading the entire library.” I have to adapt to the methods and leave my “French” way of doing things behind.
One frustrating thing when I arrived in U.S. was that even if I had been very good at English in France, nobody understands me here. My accent is horrible, and everyone is telling me, “Aww, your accent is so cute. Where are you from?”
I don’t know what to think—if it is really cute, or it is just to remind me that the English they taught me at school is definitely not the same English. The first week, my head hurt by the end of the day because I had to think about how to make my sentences. It is very frustrating because I want to talk so much about your country, but not a single word is coming out of my mouth. I just want to speak French hoping others will understand.
I was afraid to be confronted by the culture shock. Knowing I will be alone to deal with it really scared me, and I didn’t want this feeling to affect my semester. I think that there are emotional stages that every International student has or will experience when they study abroad:
The Honeymoon Stage
Everything is so cool, amazing. People are so nice with you and help you with everything. You are the center of attention because you’re the cute little foreigner. Everything is better than in France. The food is so good. Shops are open 24 hours. Mustangs are not the cars you only see in movies anymore. “I AM LIVING THE AMERICAN DREAM!”
The Frustration Stage
The “American Dream” feeling stays for a while. Then you get busy; very busy. The front desk woman at the library knows you well because you’re opening and closing the library with her everyday, even on Sundays! You get tired, and everything is annoying you. You miss your home country, food, your family, your friends, and your cat. Nothing seems confortable anymore.
The Adjustment Stage
Whatever, I’m here. It is not that bad actually. I started making friends in class and I have a feeling I am adapting to my new home. You know now that when someone asks you “Hey, how’s it going?,” you don’t have to start a conversation about what’s going on in your day. They actually don’t care. 🙂
The Acceptance Stage
After all, you got what you wanted. You have the chance to be a student at a U.S. university. You adapt to the culture. Every culture is different and even if you think yours is better, the beauty of the differences is that you learn from people, and people learn from you. And just saying: now you can cook any meal from around the world; a win-win situation!
…and Blink 182 is not going to play at the end!