It’s been a whirlwind of a year. Part of me feels that way but another part of me says, hey, it was kind of relaxed after the first few months. It’s probably a bit of both because you take the slow days with the crazy days.
Well, it’s been a year and I feel like there are things – big and small – I have learned over the year that I’d like to blog about so here it is. In no particular order, after studying in the US for the past year, I have learned:
To dance in public. I used to think that dancing in public was kind of embarrassing especially when my mom and brother did it. My mom and brother studied in the US and came back with this funky, shall we say, quality. In the US, people dance and they dance freely. Everyone’s got moves. Now I dance. I’ve been told that I’m a poor dancer and I kind of think that I am but that hasn’t stopped me. I do think I’m better than Taylor Swift so there.
My sister and I attended a craft fair early this year which I blogged about and there were concerts every afternoon. I still can’t believe we sat on the bleachers, stuffing our faces with fries, and singing along and bobbing our heads to the music. To dance in public is to know how to let your hair loose, I say.
To ask ‘how are you’. Pleasantries are never exchanged back home with store clerks or people you bump into. Here, people ask how you are every. single. time you meet.
It’s automatic to answer with ‘Good, and you?’ now. Sometimes it’s automatic to answer ‘Good’ before you even manage to think, hmm, I’m not doing so good. In Vancouver, sometimes I felt that people ask you how you are for the sake of asking, not so much because they care. Here, I get the feeling that some people actually care about how your day is going and it’s nice.
To hug. Hello hugs, goodbye hugs, all kinds of hugs here. I’m not much of a hugger but I’m getting the hang of it. At least I’m not awkwardly putting someone’s eye out when I reach around them to return the hug.
To be (more) on time. Try attending a wedding dinner back home. If it says it starts at 7pm and you’re the kind who eats dinner before 7pm, please have a Double Double from In n Out before arriving because dinner will start at 8:30pm (hopefully not 9). My parents are the timely type even though the norm back home is to say you’re almost arriving when you’ve just barely put on your shoes. I have gone to wedding dinners at 6:30pm because my dad likes to be early. I have stood in high heels for over an hour at the reception just waiting. I recommend wearing flats and bringing your own chair.
Here, people are timely. Well, probably not as much as the Germans whom I have heard take their timing very seriously but still timely enough. Which is good because who the hell wants to wait for someone who says they’re going to meet you for lunch at 12.30pm but just woke up at 12.30pm?
To be cleaner. Have you seen how proper they are about cooking meat here?! Because there are plastic bags in Costco that have a thermometer printed on them to tell you the proper temperature you’re supposed to cook and store chicken/pork/beef at.
My sister and I now get so fussy about thawing meat and cooling food. T_T I can’t say this is a good thing.
To be dirtier. Yeah, you read that right. The Americans who use soap to wash their hands then the dryer to dry their hands in the bathroom are also the ones who dump their backpacks onto the bathroom floor and put their food on the floor. Other examples: throwing their clothes onto the floor then picking it up later and wearing it; lying face down on the sofa which they know people have placed their feet on. I don’t really get it. @_@
But I’ve somehow become dirtier in less extreme ways. I always put my backpack on the floor now which is something I hardly ever did before this. It just feels so yucky to put your bag on the floor where people’s shoes have tread all over (especially from the bathroom) and I would rather put my bag on the chair but with those chair-and-foldable-desk thingys, it’s impossible so on the floor my bag goes. It feels normal now to do this.
Sometimes you can catch me dumping my jacket onto the table or draping it onto the back of the chair with the sleeves hanging dangerously close to the floor which is something I also never used to do. I even put my umbrella on the floor now omg. Who am I?
To embrace my Asian roots more. More than I’ve ever embraced it, I will admit. I grew up in a half-Westernized, half-Asian household but always liked to think of myself as more Western.
My family doesn’t do many things that Asians do but at the same time, we do do Asian things. It’s complicated. I won’t lie to you: Asians do some seriously strange things but we also do some seriously amazing things too. Well, every culture and ethnicity has its pros and cons. Reminder for those who still think that Asians = Chinese. No, Asians = Asians. You can look up a list of Asian countries.
After coming here, I oddly feel protective and, dare I say, proud of being an Asian. It’s weird to be typing that out. I guess you don’t know how to appreciate your own culture until you’re surrounded by a different one.
How has our assimilation into American life going so far? Well, there are things that we have embraced and other things that we can’t because we didn’t grow up here and the differences between us and them are distinct. I like to think that we have become richer culture-wise. Getting to live in a different culture and learning new things, it’s really fascinating.
Of course we do get looks and strangely ignorant comments now and then and sometimes it can really get to you but racism is everywhere. It just depends on how big or small the scale is.
That it’s okay to be wrong. I haven’t enjoyed being in school more. Back home, if you answer a question wrong in class, you’ll likely either be criticized for not knowing the right answer or be punished for giving the wrong answer. Why yes, being punished for not knowing the right answer… because apparently everyone needs to be Einstein in school and school is NOT the place to make mistakes and learn from them. In elementary school and high school, more often than not, a teacher would make the whole class stand up and you would only get to sit down if you answered correctly.
Maybe that’s why a lot of us come out of the system being scared of being wrong. If you answer incorrectly, you get shot down/mocked/punished in front of the whole class. The teacher will not hesitate to make you feel stupid. Imagine what that does to a person’s self-confidence, motivation and interest.
In college here, there is nothing wrong with giving the wrong answer. You tried your best, you got the wrong answer, it’s okay. Professors will tell you ‘good try’ or ‘not quite’ or something that isn’t mocking or nasty. You’re encouraged to make mistakes in order to learn. I’m not saying all professors are like that because you will meet some mean ones but for the most part, your self-confidence and motivation are not stomped on until they are unrecognizable.
You can actually go to office hours!!! And it feels good to go to your professor for help and actually get help and understand the subject better and get an A in the class that you thought you wouldn’t be able to ace. -tears of joy-
To be more honest. What I mean by this is being upfront about your financial situation. Here, it’s okay to admit that you can’t afford something.
Like the other day when we potentially needed a ride back from another city, I asked a friend who lives in that city whether it was okay to drive us 45 minutes back home. The honest answer was sure, but could we handle the gas expenses? That’s totally okay by me especially if someone is upfront about it. I understand because we’re students, we’re already forking out enough money for tuition and living expenses, and a 45-minute drive isn’t short. I wouldn’t like it if the someone agreed begrudgingly and expected us to pay for gas without telling us in advance.
How different and refreshing than the norm back home which is to never admit that you’re not well-off. Why? Because people will run. People are so shallow and superficial that they need to surround themselves with ‘rich’ people. I mentioned something similar in this post. It’s so stupid.
To be more self-conscious. I’m more self-conscious about things like my accent which is funny since I didn’t think I’d worry about it.
To be less self-conscious. I’m less self-conscious about the way I look. Another day back home is another day of being judged for how you look. In the US, I can wear a lot more things and not be stared at. That is saying something since I am a semi-conservative dresser and don’t see why women should be stared at for wearing something as simple as yoga capris. ???
To be bigger, braver, better. Living on your own in a foreign country takes some guts and getting used to. It’s strange and scary to be so far away from home and having to do things like getting used to a new culture or buying a car or apartment-hunting in the middle of a semester.
I’ve found more pieces of myself that I like. There were ups and downs, for sure, but at the end of this first year, I’m here, feeling like I’ve learned and grown a lot.
I still have so many stories about my college life in the US to tell but as usual, I’ve been sitting on this post for so long that it really should be published. Any longer and it won’t even leave this draft box haha!
Thanks for reading! <3
Have you studied abroad? Did you like it? What did you learn from your time spent in another country? Anything that struck you as weird or true or funny in my jumbled list?