I'm Adi, a first year New Media Design student at RIT. I am an international student from India. I am originally from New Delhi (the capital city), but for the past three years I have been living in Mumbai. I love to travel and explore, and have been to countries such as Germany, Dubai, Egypt, Australia, France, and more along with my family. As a workaholic, I like to try new things and step out of my comfort zone. You can often find me glued to the monitor in the New Media Lab. I am a member of International House (special interest housing - check it out!) and the New Media Club. Over the past year, I have worked as a volunteer at RIT's student run conference called Thought At Work, and am also a part of the Academics and Co-op Committee (student government) at RIT. I recently got accepted into the RIT Honors program as a late entry student. This past month I also started working as an International Student Ambassador at the RIT undergraduate admissions office and I am very excited about this job. My responsibilities include interacting and connecting with international students (mostly Indians) through video/phone calls to answer any questions they might have and help them transition into the new culture/country smoothly.
As exciting and adventurous it is to go to a different country, explore new places and start your college experience, it can be very overwhelming as well. So, I am starting a series of blogs that cover the top 7 concerns that cross every international students mind before they make this journey! Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any specific questions!
ADJUSTING TO A NEW CULTURE
Studying and living in a foreign country can be a difficult as well as rewarding experience. As I'm close to completing my first year at RIT, here are few things I learned that are helpful in coping with the cultural shock.
RIT is known for its diversity and this diversity offers an exciting environment for intellectual and personal development. We have students from more than 100 countries in the world such as Pakistan, China, India, Bhutan, Nepal, etc. It is like a salad bowl - where each individual brings something new and unique to the table. Honestly, I did not have any difficulties in adjusting here. Even though I studied in an English medium school in India, when I came here I was conscious about my accent and worried that people will laugh at me for pronouncing a word wrong. But on the contrary, all students/ professors are very understanding and respect your culture and accent. All my friends/peers understood the cultural differences and even helped me adjust, understand and learn the American culture. I have never been laughed upon or made fun of for pronouncing a word differently or for not knowing something that might be common knowledge here. (So much so that my closest friends at RIT are 5 americans and starting next year I will be sharing an apartment with them!)
Here are some tips to help you adjust easily:
1. Familiarize yourself with your surroundings
Don't be afraid to explore. Get a sense of the location and where you are living. Go out, walk around campus. The point here is to familiarize yourself with your environment so that you get comfortable with your new surroundings. One thing that does help, is surrounding yourself with familiar things such as photos of your friends or family in your dorm room. Familiarize yourself with the resources offered on campus! Most problems/issues you might be having will have a resource on campus to help you out with (look out for my next blog in this series on resources offered on campus!)
2. Be a part of a group
Join a group/club/organization on campus. Take part in activities. It is the simplest way to meet new people and make friends. It gives you a sense of belonging. There is a Get Involved fair on campus, showcasing the large variety of clubs and organizations that function at RIT. It is a good place to go and find clubs that peak your interest.
Put yourself out there. It does take immense courage and effort to initiate a conversation but in the end it is extremely helpful. Perhaps start with interacting with people on your floor and your RA (resident advisor).
3. Come with an open-mind
You are going to a new country whose culture you may not understand. There are going to be things you don't know or don't like. Come with an open mind. Try new things and new types of food. Be ready to learn from their culture and also teach them about your culture.
4. Make friends from other cultures
Get acquainted with Americans and people from cultures other than yours. Ask them questions! The best way to understand and adjust to a new culture is to make friends with and spend time with people from that culture. Many international students tend to form a community and not interact with students from other cultures. This will make adjusting more difficult. Making friends with Americans will also give you an opportunity to practice your English.
5. Be patient
Understand that it's fine to feel alone sometimes and every freshman, whether local or international, feels the same. Remember that it is a process and it will take time. Understand that 'cultural shock' is nothing to be ashamed of! Everyone goes through it ( even American students). If you do feel overwhelmed and don't have anyone to talk to, you can go to the counseling office (RIT Counseling Center http://www.rit.edu/studentaffairs/counseling/).
6. Skype your family
Set up regular Skype calls with your family and friends. Talking to them and sharing how you feel will be helpful and will ease your loneliness. Also, remember that they miss you as well. Plan for trips back home during longer vacations such as summer/winter break. For shorter breaks such as Thanksgiving, I usually go to my cousin's in Toronto which is just a 5 hour bus ride away. You might also get invited to your friend's home for Thanksgiving. If you do, GO!
Also, pro-tip: if you are traveling back to India, the flight ticket is cheaper from Toronto. Make sure you get a multi-entry Canadian visa (and if not, then Toronto is a beautiful place to visit anyways!)
Stay tuned for the next part of this series!