Photo: Exploring the Unknown

Exploring the Unknown

First-Year Reflections


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

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I first arrived to John Brown University in August of 2016. My first day at JBU was also my first day in the United States of America. International Students arrive a week before everyone else to have an Orientation Week. In this orientation, they prepared us for our first semester at college, for the life in the United States, and to meet and live with the people from the USA. After this training, I recall listing all the things I shouldn’t do. First of all, no kissing on the cheek when meeting somebody new. It is very normal to kiss people on the cheek in Latin American culture, but I was a stranger in a very different place where that could mean you like somebody, or even be considered harassment. Second, don’t hug as much. As a Latino, I must admit that we are very touchy people, we like to hug, kiss and be loud almost every time we see each other. However, I needed to restrain myself because it is not normal for Americans, and for them it would have felt awkward and even uncomfortable. Third, there is no need to say “Good morning” or “Good night” to everyone every time I saw them, even though this is a normal thing for Latinos to say a greeting even to strangers. Finally, don’t speak Spanish to them because they probably didn’t understand it or had no interest in hearing it.

In light of this, I also have to reveal what I expected from them. For some reason I had the idea that they would stereotype me as a Mexican who likes “queso”, “tacos” and likes to sing and fight with a poncho (Nacho Libre?). Despite that I thought having a stereotype was wrong, I had a stereotype of them. It is inevitable to imagine how something new is going to be. My stereotype was not that good either, and though I am not proud, I will be honest. My stereotype consisted of 95% of people being blond, almost everyone having blue eyes,  and most men being 6’7”. For some reason, in my imagination, all men loved football, had beards, had socks with the flag of USA, and were cold (did not speak as much). Also, girls liked to say “Oh My Gosh” and spend hours in the bathroom. Additionally, I must confess that from my childhood experiences of friends coming to the United States and suddenly getting taller, I was sure there must have been something in the water that made you grow exponentially. Obviously, this was my adolescent reasoning that was based on television shows and movies (perhaps High School Musical?) and is a little exaggerated.

As I looked forward, the encounter of both of our cultures was exciting for me. Finally the moment arrived, and in those first few weeks, I learned SO many things. First, I was very wrong and there weren’t as many blondes as I thought, almost no one measures 6’7”, people actually play soccer, and, though blue eyes are common, there is a great variety of colors. It was such a relief to realize I wasn’t a dwarf around most people. Second, I encountered myself looking at things others found normal, but I found weird. For example, greeting girls with a handshake was so weird the first time, and it continues to be weird today. For me, a handshake to a girl only occurred in really formal events, otherwise there would be no physical touch or just a hug. Next, when you get a gift in a public place you are supposed to open it in front of the giver! (But what if you don’t like it?) In addition, don’t say a girl is cute...just don’t. Long story short, my hall ended up thinking I liked an RA because I used that word! Come on, I meant cute like puppies. Another common misconception that I discovered quickly, is that people often misinterpret the large group laughs of Latinos as laughing at them. I promise everyone that we are just crazy; we are not talking at all about people around us. Third and last, I came to discover that North Americans are loving and caring people. From what I have seen, they love and desire to exchange cultural practices and experiences with others. They are excited to live life in college and they like getting to know different types of people and are interested in what others have to say and share. They also actually want me to speak my language and to teach them about myself. Finally, even though I found myself in a different place, it is a place that is not only filled with the love of Jesus, but is also full of a wonderful community that desires to improve and expand God’s love through every person, no matter what color or origin. JBU has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Every day, I get to know many new people and learn new things. I am joyful to confess that I’ve seen God’s love reflected in all the people I’ve met at this place.

Blog HomePosted By: Wilfredo Abudeye - 3/15/17 5:00 PM



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