A Colombian perspective on dealing with culture-shock

There’s no better way to start off a day in the cold mornings of Bogotá than with arepas and a hot cup of Juan Valdez’s coffee. Being able to spend the first moments of the day with my family is priceless, but it was something I gave up in search of new opportunities in a completely different country.

Leaving home is not an easy decision for anyone. When I was 16 years old, I chose to leave Colombia to finish high school in the United States. I came by myself, leaving behind my parents, siblings and friends with the purpose of seeking a better future and greater opportunities.

More than four years later, I’ve grown and experienced numerous aspects of American culture that have made my decision worth it. However, it hasn’t been an easy process. Similar to me, there are many international students in the Suffolk community that have gone through similar experiences.

The beginning was the hardest part of coming to the U.S. Knowing that I wasn’t going to be able to see my family and friends for a long time was hard to accept. It was difficult to adapt to a new environment, a new language and a new culture.

For the first three months, I continually doubted if I made the right choice. I knew I was in a place that provided me with significant opportunities, but I couldn’t go back home and I didn’t feel that the U.S. was the right place for me.

Leaving home is not an easy decision for anyone.”

Other international students have also had a similar experience throughout their transition to living in the U.S. Another international student from Colombia, sophomore international business major Agustin Uribe, compared his experience with mine – he has been living in the U.S. for one year.

“Weekends are sometimes the saddest days,” said Uribe. “Seeing my friends and family members back home hanging out and me missing out of those moments makes me feel lonely and annoyed.”

Even though I’ve been living in the U.S. four times as long as Uribe, I can still relate to the culture shock he has been experiencing. While we have made several friendships and relationships during our time here, we still feel out of place when we get homesick.

After living here for almost half a decade, I’ve adapted to many aspects of American culture. Initially, the language barrier was hard to overcome, but now I’m proud to say that I’m fluent in English.

I have also become a more organized and focused person. Being exposed to the different opportunities and choices that are provided here and not in my home country made me realize that I can do a lot more than I previously thought I could.

Uribe pointed out that when he went back home to Colombia during the summer, he realized that some of his friends didn’t have the same mentality as him because they hadn’t studied in the U.S.

“[They] lacked knowledge and motivation about what they can achieve in their careers,” said Uribe.

I could also see that mentality in my friends as well, which makes me grateful for being given the opportunity to come to the U.S.

This experience in the U.S. has made me learn how to be a more open-minded person. I’ve interacted with people from different backgrounds and beliefs who have taught me a lot about their different cultures.

Due to the large amount of international students at Suffolk, I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of people from different countries around the world, many of which I’m currently friends with. I’ve learned new languages and become more interested in knowing more about other cultures, which is something I never thought of doing back in Colombia.

Being an international student in the U.S. is not easy. The different personal struggles we have to overcome can create uncertainty about if we made the right choice or not.

However, I believe that in the end, these experiences help us become more independent, mature and well-rounded individuals. The best advice I’ve received as an international student is not to give up because eventually, all the effort is going to pay off.