Martina Pudelova is a music major from the Czech Republic.

Before I left the Czech Republic, I was warned that I might experience some changes here in the United States. I had no idea what they would be, but I thought I was prepared. Now, I’m facing the reality: culture shock. This is the first time I’ve been in the U.S., the first time I have studied abroad and the first time that I’ve lived away from my birthplace, my house, my family and my friends.

I thought more “supernatural” changes would happen to me; I didn’t expect I would struggle with things from everyday life. For example, I still don’t know how to use water fountains to drink instead of washing my whole face. I am getting better at opening a locker by using a number combination (no key!) but I still need to try it several times, which I think is such a waste of time and hard on my nerves, too. I am still wondering how the doors can be opened by that mysterious button instead of normal door handle. I am getting used to opening the windows by moving them up, not to the side, and I am amazed by switching the lights on by using that button, which I saw last time in my great-grandparents very, very old house; I feel like I am touching history! Finally, I really feel very uncomfortable in restrooms which do not have four walls for each “private zone” and so you can even see people’s legs.

On a more serious note, in the Czech Republic, they teach us to be “educated individuals.” Here, I see stronger emphasis on building community and social education, which includes calling teachers by first names. When I got to the university I focused only on my major music to gain as much information on my subject as possible to be prepared for my future professional career. Here, I know freshmen majoring in music who have no music classes. This is sad. On the other hand, I am fascinated by how many talented musicians there are on campus even though they don’t study music. Also, I have never played in such a good orchestra even compared to conservatories.

Some things still amaze me about this country: people using their cars to get everywhere and then spending their time and money by walking on the running track in the RFC; the many smiling faces asking “how are you?” without any real interest; Americans who have never heard of “The Great Gatsby” and sweet water from taps. However, I am glad to be here living and studying in a different culture and meeting so many people from all over the world which I could never do in my country.