It has been more than one month since I arrived in “America”, so I think it is time to tell how it has been for me so far.
There have have been some great posts about this transition (Benard’s post was awesome!) so I will try to talk about things not yet covered, with emphasis in the view of an international student.
I participated in the Global Orientation (by the way the best pre-o!) and I already made great friends there. It was very nice to meet people from around the globe with unimaginably interesting stories. There is an instant connection between internationals because we know we are all trying to figure out the tough process of moving abroad. It was also very nice to have native people participating in GO, because they showed vivid interest in our countries' cultures and histories, and helped us by answering simple questions such as “how should I tip?” or “what do all those numbers in the supermarket pricing label mean?”.
During GO, some banks and phone providers came to campus, so I opened an American bank account, although I am yet to find out how to activate the debit card since need a social security number for that.
I have also found two jobs: one in the dining hall, and another as a Portuguese tutor. However, I also need a SSN to start working, so many things are pending while I await the two-weeks period until I receive my number.
Numbers! That is something that confuses internationals a lot. I wrote about this in a simulated blog post when I was applying to be a writer for Jumbo Talk. I was trying to guess how it would be, but now I already have real experience to talk from.
“How tall are you?” I answer “1,70 meters”. “What???”. “How much do you weight?” I go “55kg” and receive the same answer again. Furthermore, notice the confusion of dots and commas. In Brazil, we write decimal places after “,” and separate every three digits with “.” (it is the opposite of what is done here.) This little detail made me lose some points in an assignment.
So now I know I am around 5’ 6’ and weight around 121 pounds. I also learned that when it is below 59°, I need a jacket. I realized that memorizing key temperatures is easier than solving C/5 = (F-32)/9.
One day, when I was getting used to these differences, the reverse confusion happened and I had again to come back to what I was used to: in a class, my German professor explained: “In Germany, we do things a little different. We switch dots for commas, we tell our height in meters…”
I guess I will never again be able to write decimal places without having to think about the main language of who is going to read them.
Feature image credit: "Travel" by Moyan Brenn licensed under CC-BY-2.0