Last week, Ayano gave some advice about assimilating to life in the U.S. and shared her own personal story about coming here from Japan. This week, another Global Immersions employee, Gen, recalls his experience as an international Japanese student in the U.S. and shares important tips for potential international students.
"My first destination when I came to the United States five years ago was Burlington, Vermont and I went to a small liberal arts college for four months to take some summer courses. Since I had a prior experience in participating in a summer English program back in 2007 at the same college, my adjustment to the U.S. culture and a new life went very smooth without any problems. I had some American friends from my first trip who were so generous to help me out with my move-in and getting all the necessities, like my cell phone, laptop and etc. The friendly and peaceful environment of Vermont also gave me a homey feeling, which made my stay so comfortable. After a couple of months passed, I made some close friends who I would always hang out with, I was doing surprisingly well with all the classes, and got completely used to my new surroundings. Everything was going exactly what I expected it to be.
At the end of August 2011, it was time for me to leave Vermont to start my new life in Boston. I was already admitted to Northeastern University before leaving Japan, and going to a full-time university in the United States had always been my dream, so I could not complain how lucky and granted I was. But to be honest, I was considering cancelling my admission to Northeastern, and register for the college in Vermont as a full-time student instead, just so I could continue the fun college life I was having. I had never been determined to move to Boston to start my upcoming five years college life. Rather, expectations from my parents, my classmates from my old high school, and people who supported me back home pushed me towards making that decision. Aside from my actual desire to study international relations and cultures in the U.S., coming to study at a well-known school and to live in a big city was only a "cool thing" for me.
Five years have passed, and now that I graduated from Northeastern and successfully completed my college life in Boston, I even feel it was ridiculous that I had such anxiety and concerns. As a Japanese from a small city which is in nowhere close from any of the metropolises, it was definitely comfortable to live in Vermont. I felt the sense of community within the campus and outside. For most of the international students studying in Boston, the hardest challenge would be how quickly they can adjust to their new lifestyles in Boston, and to the American culture. The longer the adjustment takes, the more stressful a student would feel over time. Everybody needs to undergo the period of adjustment, and we all understand that it takes some time. Living away from the environment you've loved and feel comfortable of can be extremely stressful. So, how can we try to minimize such stress? Here are some tips and advice for you as a Japanese cultural consultant here at Global Immersions.
First, it is very common to feel insecure, anxious and uncomfortable being in a new environment. But remember, everyone else is on the same page. It is even a waste of time to be thinking that you might be the only one who's experiencing such struggle. Adjusting to a new environment does not necessarily mean making lots of new friends, or knowing more places in the city than your friends do. Adjustment is not a competition. If you hurry trying to "fit in" to the new things, you will eventually exhaust yourself. When you are feeling nervous about your new life, so is everybody else you got to know, and take your time to slowly get accustomed to your surroundings.
Secondly, do not forget the most simple elements and the easiest things you can do. Say "hi" and smile. This may sound a bit ridiculous because everyone can do these and is doing so in day-to-day life. Well, the reality is, it is very easy to forget to smile and greet friendly when you are in the middle of the adjustment period of feeling a little discouraged. Don't we all have this kind of experience when feeling so left behind comparing to others who seem to be having the successful start of new college life, and you start to worry about yourself? Again, it is a waste of time tiring yourself with such worries first of all like I mentioned, but more importantly, everyone will be fully accustomed to their new lives in Boston regardless of how quickly the adjustment takes. We'll all get to the same point eventually, so why hurry? Instead, you should always be a nice "diplomat" to yourself. I can guarantee that new people you meet will remember you after some years, just because you left a nice impression on them.
Lastly, accept the fact that you are living in a completely different environment, and that your comfort zone does not exist around you anymore, unless you try to create one. When I moved to Boston from Vermont, all I could think about was the "losses", like friends I made there, my favorite beautiful view I could see from my dorm room window, campus, stores, Ben & Jerry ice cream (Boston has more store locations than its birthplace Burlington actually)... But obviously, leaving the beloved town and people behind and moving to a new location does not only cause you those losses. You'll meet so many new people, get to know new great sites you can go, find your own place where you can relax. Discovering all these positive aspects of the new place could only be possible if you stay open-minded and are ready to accept the differences.
If you are considering on studying abroad and have the same worries and anxieties as I did five years ago, I can guarantee you that you all will do just fine, and will have such awesome experiences when you have completed your programs. After all, adjustment is not all about a series of stressful moments you have to go through. And remember, you can get accustomed to the new environment only at your own comfortable pace, always be nice and smile, and get out in the city and find what your new favorites are!"