By: Shirley Cayetano
Special to the Chronicle
Now I get the meaning of culture shock. Before arriving at Hofstra I was already aware of the concept, but being a part of it is another story. I am from Lima, Peru and this Hofstra experience is something completely new to me in every possible way.
I arrived at John F. Kennedy airport on Sunday morning. It was my first time in another country, my first time in an international airport and my first time in the United States.
One question comes to my mind all the time. How did I know that I wanted to study in a country that I have never been to before? Actually, I never knew. That is the main reason why I am here. I wanted to leave my comfort zone which includes my language, my food, my friends and my family.
Adapting to another environment has been difficult so far, but at the same time it has been exciting. Perhaps some international students are having the time of their lives. In my case, it is a challenge because I cannot get over my shyness yet. There are no drawbacks, but there are difficulties that can be beaten with patience and time. However, sometimes I wonder what I am doing here. At least once, all of the international students have asked this question. Since studying abroad is our choice, it is our responsibility to cheer ourselves up.
My first difficulty is getting used to the language. Speaking English makes me feel like I am not myself because it is not natural to me. I am still struggling with this issue. My advice to get over shyness is to speak a lot in order to learn and to adapt. We must remember we are one step behind Americans in the sense that English is not only a requirement for being comfortable in our new environment, but it is also helpful for classes and assignments.
After the language barrier, another cultural aspect was difficult at first. Perhaps many of you have heard that Peruvian food is some of the best in the world, and I realized that fact when my mom’s cooking was not available anymore at the Student Center. However, in only two weeks on campus, I noticed that we have plenty of food to choose from- from salads to brown rice with beans and chicken. It is obviously not the same food of my home country but at least it is not junk food.
In addition to the food being completely different, living on campus is too. In Peruvian universities, resources like living on campus and having many restaurants and cafeterias is not common.
As an international student, the biggest challenge so far has been the cultural similarities and differences. One difference I noticed is that in America it is quite common to say thank you for everything and to say phrases like, "Have a great day." In Peru we do not usually do that. What surprised me the most is that people will talk to you even if they do not know you. In that sense, Peruvian people are more thoughtful, or maybe more shy. Another difference is the greetings. In Peru we usually kiss on the cheek to say hello, Americans do not. These differences may sound insignificant; however, these are the little things we have to get used to and they make us realize Hofstra and the U.S. are our new homes for the next four years.
For all the international students that came to Hofstra for better, the key word is patience-- the same patience that helped us do all the paperwork to come here. There are days when you will feel homesick, but it is our job to not let ourselves down. Nobody said it was easy, but one sure thing is that it is exciting.