Expanding the Comfort Zone
Being a foreigner in the country you will live in for the next four years is difficult. You don’t know what different stores sell or understand the social norms. You might even struggle with the language. Essentially, you go through a lot of culture shock.
When I first came to the United States, everything being so big scared me. The buildings, malls and food portions were preposterously large. When I decided to buy a large Coke from Chick-fil-A, I didn’t expect to get a whole barrel of it. When I went to CVS, I completely lost it. Yes, I know this sounds weird to an American, but to the average European, having a massive pharmacy that sells snacks and shampoo is crazy. Additionally, I couldn’t get around the fact that everyone seemed so friendly and helpful. I thought the kindness was fake, as back home if you ask anyone a question they answer with a tone that makes you feel pretty dumb.
However, being a student at Georgetown makes all of these struggles a heck of a lot easier. There are a lot of people in the exact same situation as me and, some of the time, I knew these people before I even went to college. The sense of familiarity with other internationals has really helped me get through the initial shock of coming to America for the first time.
Nonetheless, there is a mistake that many of us foreign students make in this new reality. As a whole, we tend to only hang out with other international students with whom we share similar cultures. Yes, it’s a fantastic feeling discovering this new culture with other people going through the same struggle. It is also important to embrace the people of the culture you are trying to discover. For me, as a Greek, it may be easier to hang out with other Greeks, Italians or the French, as we all share a bit of European culture and have the same discomfort from moving halfway across the world. On the other hand, I, just like other internationals, have the opportunity to hang out with Americans, whose culture I have never really interacted with before. Within Georgetown, most of the Americans are extremely kind and can help you get over the initial culture shock by showing you around or explaining the social norms. This can make a huge difference in how fast you get used to being in the US. For example, my American friends have helped me immensely with understanding various social cues that we didn’t have back home. Furthermore, they have shown me where and how to shop in the US which can be quite a tricky experience.
The Georgetown community is a friendly and safe one, making it very easy to find friends all over campus. It’s an opportunity for all of us to hang out with people outside of our comfort zone and learn from different experiences and cultures.