Choosing to attend the University of Arkansas has been one of the best decisions I ever made. It has allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and to experience part of the American culture that I did not know existed. The campus has a diverse culture that is uniquely its own, however, there is a certain amount of diversity that is lacking.
When I first stepped onto campus I experienced a culture shock. Coming from a country whose culture is mixed with probably all of the cultures in the world and stepping into a culture that is predominantly white has been quite an eye opener. Even the African-American culture was hard to identify with because I am an island gyal!
Many nights I laid in bed feeling left out and alone because I felt like I did not have a place. My upbringing was different to most and how I saw things were different to how others viewed it. Faces became a blur and I was going through the motions just praying for the vacation to come. Although I made amazing friends who were also from the Caribbean I still had a bad case of home-sickness.
Looking back now, I was my own enemy. I had withdrawn myself from the idea of university and all I had focused on was getting back home. This affected me in all aspects of my life; my grades fell, I was sick all the time and all I did was go to my classes then go back to my dorm. I am a shy person so I did not interact much with people outside of my friend circle. At this point all of my friends were international students.
In Spring I decided that things needed to change, I needed to open up more to people and not be scared. When I came back from Christmas break I decided that I should just accept that I would not be able to fit into every group on campus, I was okay with myself. I was never ashamed of my Caribbean identity so I kept on feeling pride in myself and where I came from and this helped to calm me. I went out more often, I went to my classes and my grades went up and I felt better than I did in the Fall semester.
I am from a society that has multiple religions, races and ethnicities and tolerance is very high, in my first semester it was scary to experience a culture that was not as diverse as mine. I am glad to say that I have made friends from various places including America and my fear is gone. Sometimes you think that you are prepared for certain situations but when you finally step into them you get the shock of your life, this is when you find out your true strength because how you react to it shows the kind of person you are.
Written by Giselle Bates