Living away from your family has always been a challenging obstacle to overcome. You will need to have a kind of manner that is significantly self-discipline, self-assertion, and self-confidence. It is not an easy step to venture yourself into an adult life while you are still a baby in the family. Imagine that you would live in a world which is completely “bizarre” – a world where the people will talk to you in a different dialect that you have heard in movies before; a world where their lifestyles are so abundant that you are shocked as you don’t know how to adapt to the new environment; a world where you always wonder “What the heck am I eating?” when you try new cuisine; a world where you will suffer from your first homesick, and you can only talk to your family through the little screen of your laptop. Those are probably overwhelming for a “baby” like me. I was extremely stressful by the time I got to America. It was not as simple as packing up, getting on the airplane, taking pictures, buying stuff, and going home. No, it is NOT like that. I literally tried to “endure” myself in this country for the first three months. There was too much stuff going on, and I could not have handled it. It was one of the most irritating times in my life. Nothing went as smooth as I first thought. However, it simultaneously did turn out – and it has turned out – to be the best turning point of my growth. To make this point more clearly, I will list below 3 challenges that I found were the most troublesome to me, and what I’ve done to deal with them:
Of course! Different languages would be my first anxiety. I could not talk to ANYONE. Well, not really – I could still try to describe what I wanted to say by using my body-language skill, which would be totally awkward if they still could not get what I wanted to say (Haha!). Regularly, I had to repeat my sentences twice, thrice, or even four times, but whoever speaking to me got no clue what I had just said. Then, I realized that my accent was way off! I hadn’t put my best effort into my pronunciations, which included those like word stressing rules and rhythm when you ask a question or say exclamatory expressions, etc. Whatever English speaking lessons I had learned in Vietnam did not help me much. Therefore, I decided to spend much of my time going on Youtube to find videos teaching how to pronounce American accent properly. I watched them every night before I went to bed; about 15 minutes each night. Gradually, by noticing some “special” American verbal style (such as hidden “t’s” in “water”, “mountain”, “button”, …) and mimicking my host mom’s, my friends’, and my teachers’ tones – whispering to myself secretly, of course – I boosted my speaking skill to a new level. Within 2 months, I was somewhat able to have “real” conversations with many people. Even though there were some noticeable mistakes, they were able to comprehend what I was saying.
2. Food – aka “American cuisine”:
To be honest, I lost about 10 lbs within 3 months – not doing any exercise. I could not really eat. Most of the food here was super odd (certainly for me): the milk tasted almost the same as water (our milk is pretty sweet), the chicken didn’t taste right, and … “What in the world is “Taco”!!?!!” (Obviously, these were just my first honest impressions). I will assume that you know the feeling when your stomach rumbles during class time when everyone is quiet. Pretty awkward, right? That was what happened to me occasionally – and I sometimes had to ask my teacher to leave for the restroom in the middle of the lesson. However, I progressively figured that their cuisine was pretty interesting. The more I ate, the more I enjoyed it. I would love to taste anything, no matter how strange they were. So far, my favorite American dish is steak, baked potatoes, and yes, TACO, too!!!
3. Biological clock:
In addition to linguistic and eating barriers, my biological clock was another problem. Vietnam is about 12 to 14 hours different from America, so my first American week was totally messed up: I was wide awake at night and almost fell asleep in classes. Otherwise, this dilemma could be easily solved. All I did was try to get to sleep at night as much as possible and drink water constantly throughout the day. Drinking water is both healthy and allowing you to stay hydrated. So, why not?
To wrap that entire up, I would say it has been a great trip for me. Even though the three challenges above are just small portions of big problematic puzzles, they have shaped my life significantly. Life is full of adventures and, concurrently, objections. You will not know how far you can go if you haven’t tested your limit. I know my limit when I come to America, and I also acknowledge that I can still broadcast my limitation more than I could have imagined. Thus, I’m glad that I’ve made the right decision.