Coming to the End

Being a part of the third floor, Students Crossing Borders (SCB), at Middlebrook has taught me a lot in the past few months. I have learned so much about other parts of the world as well as learned to look at where I come from with new eyes. I owe a lot of my personal growth from these past few months to these awesome people I get to call my floormates.

Although I am not able to spend a large portion of my time with the people on my floor, I do cherish the time that I do get to spend with them. Everyone on my floor is unique in their own way and offers some sort of insight into a new culture which I find extremely interesting. I usually get to spend time with the people from my floor after I have been working and going to classes during the day. Typically, I will go into one of the study lounges and start working on homework and chatting with who ever else is in the lounges at the time. It can be hard to get a lot of work done, but sometimes I find my time spent with the people from my floor to be more important then school work.

I have had many conversations with the other students from my floor about where they come from and why they came to study here. I think one of the most interesting conversations I had was about language. Language is a funny thing. We use it everyday and tend to forget how important it is in our everyday lives. Coming to a foreign land that speaks a different language can be very difficult. Learning a language is not an easy task and can become very frustrating. “Acquiring fluent command of a language requires plastic changes in the neuronal circuitry in the human brain that enable one to correctly perceive the new speech sounds” (Kuhl, 1993). When you have never heard a language before the brain cannot process the word or phrase that was said correctly. It can sound like mumbo jumbo and be hard to reproduce. After repeatedly hearing the said word or phrase it becomes easier to understand and for the brain to recognize the sound and tones of the given language. Learning a language takes a lot of time and patience. I truly admire the students that have chosen to come here and study. It cannot be easy. I know there are times when I struggle to understand certain words a professor or text book use. With that being said it has to be even harder for some of them.

In addition to language culture shock becomes another challenge of living in a foreign land. Culture shock is “the anxiety that results from losing all our familiar signs and symbols of social intercourse such as customs, gestures, facial expressions, or words” (Westwood, 2002). International students deal with the normal day to day struggles as any student does in college in addition to the battle against culture shock. Garza-Guerreo describes culture shock as a stage of ‘mourning’. Going through culture shock is similar to the process of mourning because it is as if they are mourning the loss of their own culture while trying to embrace a new one. Having experienced it myself, I know just how difficult it can be at times. For me one of the best cures would be to submerse myself into the culture at hand and be busy with the new friends I had made abroad. This helped me feel more included and like I was truly adapting to the culture. Having known what this is like I really wanted to make the students here feel included as well.

On the floor we do many activities together, including taking trips. One weekend, twenty people from our floor, hit the road and set off for Duluth. We had a blast! Us Minnesotans go to show some of the students why Duluth is an important city to us and show them around. I believe all of the students really had a good time and enjoyed the time they got to spend together. By traveling we can learn so much. I think Rick Steves reiterates this perfectly.

Through travelling we can learn so much about the culture and what their values are. Besides our trip to Duluth, myself and four other students were also able to take a trip to Chicago for Thanksgiving. This was another trip well spent. In my time with the students I could not help but to reflect back numerous times on my own time abroad. There were moments when I was fighting back tears and just remembering memories in my head. As I was with my friends in Chicago, I was reminded of that feeling you have while your abroad. Everything is so new and exciting and you cannot wait to see what is next. When I came back to the States I realized that I had lost that feeling. Being with my friends brought it back just a little bit. I had never been to Chicago before and there I was experiencing new things within the culture I hail from. I did not want the trip to end. Our trip to Chicago will be something that I will remember forever.

Through the time that all of the students have spent here I hope that their initial views of the US have changed. Being an outsider and looking at the US can be a scary and very different thing. In this video several people are interviewed from around the world and are asked what they think about the US. Knowing many people think these things can be frustrating. I hope that when the students here return to their homeland they will be able to say good things about their experiences here.