Welcome to a different world and a wholly different way of life, where speaking to strangers is a custom and where class room regulations are not as rigid as back home in India.
Surprised by the fellow student who received you at the airport and greeted you with a Hey, how you doing? Or by the immigration officer who asked you unnecessary questions such as which school you were going to and which state it was in or by the perfect stranger who passed you by on campus and smiled at you? If you’re in the US, don’t be! People in the US smile and say Hello even to strangers. Apart from the fact that they are friendly by nature, they also do this to battle loneliness by exchanging pleasantries.
Loneliness is felt acutely when you are away from home. You have to do your laundry, cook food, buy groceries, Study in the library write assignments go to the gym, all usually by yourself. However as frightening as it may sound all this will only make you more independent and teach you to live with yourself. Solitude can help immensely in organizing thoughts and goals.
The US campus and classroom experience is perhaps the most grueling, challenging and intellectually stimulating, yet fun filled and friendly one. That’s what it seems like at the outset. Your orientation day is very important. This is the time when will you meet the people that you will interact with repeatedly during your stay. Your program coordinator the department secretary, dean, international student services staff, all of whom will help you to decide which courses to take in the first semester buy the right health insurance, fill out of few zillion forms, get your university student ID card check out opening of bank accounts and leads to possible jobs on campus.
A major adjustment that most Indian students have to make is in the vital area of time management. Indians are generally laid back attitude. However, this attitude will not work in the States, as there will be such a huge amount of work that it will be impossible to complete it on time. You have to be able to multi task and organize your day well.
In class, it is not unusual to see many students biting into a cheeseburger or an apple. This is unthinkable of in an Indian college but is accepted in America. The other fact, that takes some getting used to, is that any student can leave any class whenever they feel like.
Such behavior is not termed as disrespected. The attitude of professors on campus too is friendly and informal. However, students need to be careful not to step over the line of property in their conduct.
Sharing a room or an apartment with someone is the beginning of a new experience. In India, we generally take off our shoes when we enter the house and certainly do not jump on to our beds or sofas with our sneakers on. In the US they do and if you don’t want this to happen in your room, you have to gently discuss it with you roommate.
Initially the inability to speak in your mother tongue is a serious disappointment. You mostly speak in English and perhaps sometimes with fellow Indians in Hindi.
Another major change you will have to go through will be to hunt for Indian food. Once you’re done with your fill of pizzas and burgers you are certain to begin to pine for some rice and dal or rajma. However, it is unlikely to be available on any meal plan at the residence hall or dorm so you had better cook it yourself. Or, if you can afford it, go to an Indian Pakistani or Bangladeshi restaurant. If that is not possible look for Greek, Lebanese or Turkish food, as some of it is very similar to North Indian food.
A classmate starts talking about some personal problems that she is encountering. You feel uncomfortable as it is too personal. Get used to it. Hardly any discussion is really as the Americans believe is letting it all hang out. That is, speak your mind and purge yourself.
Your two friends who are seeing each other; sometimes kiss and hug each other even in a group! In India, you have hardly ever seen public demonstration of affection but in the US is de rigueur. Americans are very direct people. If they like something they say so, if they don’t they say so too.
A girl in your class has been smiling at you and waiting for you to leave class together. You jump to the conclusion that she must have fallen for you. Wrong. She is just trying to be friends like one of the guys. Learn to deal with gender equality.
You will be surprised that your friend is asking her parents if she can visit them. However, you will also find this friend’s parents treating you like their own son or daughter when you are invited to their home.
The US campus is a place to learn not only about your chosen field but about life as well. How does the other half live? You will learn to adapt and grow, to be firmly rooted and yet be open, to grasping new things to learn and do. Things that are different are new to you. But not for long, as you live with it and it becomes part of you. That is living the experience by total immersion. This is why you have chosen to study in a US university campus.