Traveling abroad and living in another country so far away from home can definitely challenge you and your ability to cope with new situations and habits. This is what people usually call “culture shock.” I experienced culture shock in the United States in a few different ways.
#@ 1. Worst and best roommate ever
When I came to the United States, I knew I would live in a double room with another girl. I knew she would probably be American, but I could have never imagined she would be the worst roommate ever. She made it very difficult to enjoy my housing situation for my first two months at Eckerd. I tried to get along with her for two months, but eventually I decided to give up and change rooms. That is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life! I thought it would be tiring and awkward to move in the middle of the semester, but it was fine. My friends helped me move all my stuff to the new room, and my new roommate? I love her! She is a super active and interesting girl, who is very kind to me and always smiling. She is also part of the Palmetto Production, the Eckerd College campus activity board. But above all, she is super respectful of me and my space, and this is what I love most! I am going to miss her when I go back to Italy, but I wish her all the best for the future.
2. Discussion in class
When I came to Eckerd, I never would have guessed that for each of my courses I would have to speak in class in front of many other students. This was pretty shocking to me at the beginning of the semester, because in Italy we don’t usually have much discussion in class. You just sit down for one or two hours and listen to what the professor has to say and that’s it. But in the U.S., class discussion, group projects and presentations are very normal. I challenged myself and I got rid of my sense of embarrassment after a month or so. I still have the feeling that my face gets red when my professor asks me to talk, but I feel much more confident.
3. International students
At Eckerd College you can find students from all over the U.S., and also from all over the world. I am Italian and I would have never dreamed of coming here before applying to ISEP. Living with people from all over the world means that you gradually get used to different accents. Sometimes you can’t even understand what people are saying, especially if they speak really fast. I felt uncomfortable asking people to repeat themselves because I didn’t want to bother them. After talking with friends, I realized that they actually liked my Italian accent and they were more than happy to explain what they wanted to say, thus letting me learn more. Now I am able to recognize different pronunciations and my English has definitely improved a lot. You should never be afraid of using a foreign language and asking people to repeat if you do not understand what they said.
4. Cafeteria food
I am on the meal plan at Eckerd, and that means that I have three meals per day included in my ISEP contract. I am Italian and I don’t want to seem arrogant when I say that I know what “good food” means. I miss my healthy Mediterranean diet and the fresh fish my mum used to cook me almost every day when I was at home. At the same time, I would be insincere if I told you that I did not like the cafeteria food. I have plenty of choices and I can vary my diet by eating something different everyday. If I want to stay healthy, I can also find a lot of vegetables and vegan food. The ingredients are not as high-quality ingredients, but I definitely cannot say that the food is bad. It is also super cool that when you want to leave the healthy path, you can grab a slice of pepperoni pizza (yes, I am Italian and I am saying it!) or get a good hamburger with fries at the burger station. And do you want to know which is my favorite day at the cafeteria? Definitely taco Tuesday!
Living abroad is not easy and sometimes you will feel uncomfortable or simply disoriented. But the other side of the coin is that there is always something new to learn, both from negative and positive experiences!
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