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To study in the United States has been my dream since I was a child, besides of how beautiful and diverse the country is, the great distance it has between Timor-Leste have always triggered me to be extremely eager to learn and experience the cultural differences between the two countries. Preparing to depart to the United States was thrilling. As I gradually expressed farewell to my family, took care of my immigration documentations, searching for items necessary to bring to the country I felt extensive excitement and was beyond ready to start the journey. Prior to my departure to the United States I was already given ideas on what to expect in the United States. The term Individuality and conservative-mind continuously came up when some described the people in the United States. I guessed it was more for the sake of expecting the worst to get the best outcomes.
When I arrived in the United States my first thought was, as what the country strongly signifies, freedom. Everybody was free to express themselves by their style of clothing, their actions and words without being judged. There was a strong sense of acceptance. My arrival in Tennessee Technological University was welcoming and heartwarming. The communities in the campus are very kind and open-minded. There were numerous events held to gather the international students with the Americans. So far I have joined two programs that exchange cultural knowledge between the Americans and the international students, they are the host family program and the EAGLE (Explorative Academy for Global and Local Engagement) program. Those are two out of countless amount of programs, which I would love to join if class assignments weren’t loaded. The people are indeed culturally conservative, some may never been out of the country however they exhaustively are enthusiast to learn about different culture and would take advantage of all the opportunities to. I was often asked to teach about my cultures when introducing my self to others. During a dinner I had along with my friend from Malaysia with our host family in their house, we were given a map to show where our countries are located and we had to give an insight to the history of our country. There’s no better feeling than daily representing Timor-Leste especially to those who are interested to know more.
First days away from family and friends were challenging. It was quite exacting to make new friends that have been adapted to different way of life. How friendships work must have been somewhat different I thought. During the times of adjustment I was homesick most of the time. But as I become more involved in school, make new friends and get to know them more personally, I realized there are not much difference on how friends treat each other, it depends on the individual’s personality. The town Tennessee Tech located is called Cookeville and is a fairly small town, which is similar to Dili. Most of the recommended activities here are outdoor activities such as hiking, cliff jumping and camping, which make me feel closer to home. Due to the size of the town, how the people interact is also similar to Dili, people are friendly and are more laid-back compared to other places in the United States where there is significant distinctiveness between individual. Major differences of students’ life I’ve seen between Timor-Leste and the United States are class behaviors. Students from both countries engage completely during class however students in the U.S are more relaxed in the way they sit, listen and in the time they leave the class whereas the students in Timor-Leste are more concern with their behaviors as a sign of respect towards the teachers. Not to say the American students aren’t respectful, the teachers tend to take into account their academic abilities more than class behaviors. Both have their own way of succeeding.
At the moment I am looking forward to explore more places in the United States to learn about the culture as well as to observe the ways that the government managed these different places environmentally according to resources available thus I can gain further knowledge majoring in Environmental study. My main aim however is to at least be more involved in the communities of Cookeville rather than just the campus community. I believe involvement with the EAGLE program will lead to wider community involvement, as it requires members to plan some community and services in the future.
Overall, My experience in the United States so far has its hardships in the beginning and is becoming better through community involvement.