Problems faced by international students who come to the U.S. for the first time are not always easy to overcome. As one of them, I've found it very difficult to handle most of the problems I've encountered. I've experienced a very terrible culture shock that still makes me upset. As a student, I've found that the personal and cultural problems I experience may gravely affect my grades. The three major problems I've encountered deal with independence, homesickness, and loneliness, which really shocked me.
Since my culture is completely different from the U.S., I was very surprised and shocked by the U.S. way of doing things independently. For many years, I lived in a totally different culture; I was completely unprepared for American culture. For example, since I first came here in August 1990, I have had to do many kinds of work by myself which I had never done when I was in Indonesia, such as doing laundry, cleaning the bedroom, and getting up early in the morning. In Indonesia, I never had a hard time doing such things since everything was done by my servants. I concentrated on studying without being bothered by such things. On the contrary, the American way of doing everything independently has given me a hard time which, in effect, makes me think all the time about the sweet life I had in Indonesia. As a result, I always think about going back to Indonesia and can't concentrate on studying.
The second problem I face is loneliness. Since I am the only Indonesian student in this university, I can't share my feelings with someone from the same culture and language as mine-someone who can really understand me. So I have nobody to talk with, nobody to complain to, and nobody to share with. For example, as I have observed lately, many other international students prefer to spend most of their time with students from the same country they are from. The only time I can spend with those students is when there is a meeting for international students or an activity that includes all international students. Other than that, I have to stay in my room by myself and just think about home all the time and study. This has put me under great pressure for the four months I have been here, and it's a really serious problem for me to deal with. During weekends, many international students always have fun together with friends from their own countries while I have to stay alone all day in my room. This causes boredom and a dislike of being in America.
The third problem is homesickness. In Indonesia, I used to have a good time with my friends, and my parents made me feel comfortable and secure. I felt that I was always protected and would be able to solve each of my problems by discussing it with them whenever they were around me. In contrast, I've found that nobody here in the U.S. can be as understanding as the people I know in Indonesia. It seems to me that nobody here cares for what I'm doing, and people here are just too busy doing their own things. It makes me cry whenever I think about it, and, as a result, I haven't been able to concentrate much on my classes.
These three problems are absolutely difficult for me to overcome. I know that the problems have caused my inability to get good scores in my classes. However, I know that I have to be realistic since I can't change anything back. I just hope that the problems will bring good effects for me in the future. I hope that I will gradually be able to overcome each of the shocking problems I will encounter in the future so that I will successfully finish my study in the U.S. and be able to contribute much to my country.
This magazine is produced by the Write Place and is funded through a St. Cloud State University (St. Cloud, Minnesota) Cultural Diversity Committee allocation.
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