Ever since I came to Goshen College, people here have been constantly asking me about my college experience. Every day I face questions like “OMG! Tell me about your college experience!” “How does it feel like to go to school in a completely different country and culture?” “Have you experienced culture shock?” Indeed, I have experienced culture shock, but not in the way you might have expected. So, I decided to write this piece for everyone who is curious.
First of all, I came prepared. Even before I moved to the States, I had gained a sophisticated understanding of American college life through scholarly sources like raunchy American TV shows from mid 2000’s, Hollywood rom-coms that only have 10% or less ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, shady recruitment brochures, and sappy teen music videos. Through these sources I gathered that everyone in college is either making out, gossiping or pregnant. That seemed pretty cool, so I came! I knew exactly what to expect out of American colleges: partying every day, making out everywhere, awkwardly sitting on a grassy knoll with suspiciously diverse group of students (as seen on the brochure), rarely showing up to classes (especially not morning ones), and making that one East Asian guy do all my math homework. So, you can imagine my shock when I finally made it to GC, the culturally progressive land with the culturally progressive radio station.
Alas, it was nothing like they show in teen movies. Students actually spend time in classes. In fact, everybody shows up to every class. And not just because attendance counts for your final grade, but because they enjoy it! Yes, truly amazing that people would pay thousands and thousands of dollars for something then actually have the gall to enjoy it. Unfortunately, the only making out I’ve seen is when the squirrels get frisky after drinking too much Menno Tea out of the trashcan. Or, when some hungry upperclassmen make out of the cafeteria with Tupperware full of food.
But Goshen College is really good. A lot of stereotypes have been broken for me since I came, like when most white people in my Calculus class turned out to be better in math than I was, making me question my own “Asian-ness.” And when students ran around with Java Junction’s Milkshakes instead of hard liquor on weekends. That’s when I realized that bad teen movies had lied to me and how good the Java Junk actually is. Friday night “parties” on the third-floor connector with bread, apple cider and Stranger Things was nothing like how I had imagined parties at American universities to be. It was good, if not better than I had imagined.
Of course, there are still things that continue to baffle me even after all these years, like when people say, “How are you?” as they’re walking past and don’t wait for your reply. Are they talking to me or someone behind me? Are they on the phone and using some ear piece or do I not really understand the question? Or when they call a piece of bread a “biscuit” and eat it with gravy, and call actual biscuits “cookies.” I tried making “biscuits and gravy” so I could get used to American food, but when you substitute cookies for biscuits, it’s not as good, trust me. But even worse than messing up their own food, they mess up my food too! They call everything that looks Indian to them “curry” and say outrageous things like “chai tea latte” and “naan bread.”
Americans should just stick to things they know, like hot dogs. China makes hot dogs too, but America’s are much better.
That’s the beauty of being in a different culture, and especially at GC, I guess. Every day is a new surprise and you don’t know what to expect. Just last week, Andrew Hartzler dabbed in my senior accounting class (and made us realize that he’s cooler than all of us combined). None of us saw that coming.