At the beginning of the fall term, several international students, including Nino Lazariia, Anna Shokina, and Lemiao Yu, as well as the French T.A. Julie Le Sauce, started to call Alma College their home away from home for the upcoming school year.
“I love [Alma] more because here people are more [likely to] participate in sports and other activities on campus,” said Yu. “Culture shock,” a term that is used to refer to a person’s adjustment to extreme differences in a culture that is not their native home, affected some students more than others.
Yu xperienced less cultural shock than she thought she would. “In China, people will really carefully look at me and they will notice how my hair looks like, how my clothes look like, [and] how I behave,” said Yu.
Yu explained that here in America people do not really care about how they dress when they leave the home, and it allows her to feel more confident herself because “here people dress more freely.”Asian culture is not the only one that differs greatly from American culture.
Shokina and Lazariia, international students from Russia, also struggled with understanding how American students dress. “[In France] we don’t consider leggings pants,” said Le Sauce.
“On my first day I was super official and prepared: super fancy. I was thinking it should be a super important day, and everybody was in flip flops and shorts. And I was like a black sheep in my skirt and white blouse. And I was like, ‘okay I understand’ and on the second day I was like all of them,” said Lazariia.
As the clothing and dress appearance played into the culture shock, atmosphere played a key role as well. “Alma is much calmer than hectic Moscow,” said Shokina. “[Here] everyone wants to learn and better themselves, [and] the professors are very supportive.”
Le Sauce spoke about the contrast between on-campus living here and where she lived in France. “In France we don’t have campuses,” said Le Sauce.
“[In Alma,] if you need help [with homework] you can meet someone at the library [anytime]. When I was living in Paris, I was living in the north and all my friends were living in the south of my university. So once I was in my place [home] it was just possible to communicate with phone and not see each other,” said Le Sauce.
With communication struggles, each individual explained matters based on how they prepared themselves. “Having your brain [wired] in another language is tiring,” said Le Sauce. “I felt like kind of lonely and I felt the need to speak French, so I was calling my parents or my sister almost every day.”
Lazariia admitted that she too contacts her family daily; however, this was different with Shokina and Yu, who contact their families less often because of their cultural upbringing.
Shokina, who had already completed an internship in The Netherlands, was able to better adapt to less contact with her family based on busy schedules and time zone differences. Once in American, the formality of their language training became apparent; English slang caused the most trouble when trying to push through the language barriers.
“It was hard to understand abbreviations, and I should always Google it. But now I understand it, and it is kind of cool,” said Lazariia.
“I want to meet people and I want to make friends. I want to make an impact, and I want to take a step forward to do something really good for our world,” said Lazariia.