As mentioned before, "culture shock" will most likely be part of your experience here in the United States. Culture Shock has a negative ring to it but it doesn't necessarily have to be a negative experience. You will realize that you have learned so much about the new culture and that this experience has probably opened your eyes to a new part of the world you had never seen before.

Coming to a culture that is new and strange to you, and very different to what you are used to is always exciting at first, but then reality hits you and you realize that some of the things and rules over here are not as exciting and cool as you thought they would be.

Here are some comments from past students:

  • "It is annoying that you have to show your ID card/passport every single time you want to buy a pack of cigarettes, or a cold beer. For this reason it is very highly recommended that instead of running around with your passport every time you want to buy something at Safeway or want to go to the bar, you go to the DMV and get an Oregon State ID." (see Practical Matters)
  • "Because I didn't have a car, I found myself spending way too much time on campus. Try to come up with ways to get off campus, even just downtown, or to Lancaster Mall. You can go to Eugene or Portland either by train or by bus; each are just an hour away."
  • "In the United States, people you have never met before will smile at you and say "Hi! How are you doing!" Notice that it is not a question! It is more of a statement. You are basically expected to answer, "Fine! And how are you!" and that will usually be the end of that! It is basically the standard greeting here in the U.S."
  • "A little funny thing you will notice is that as the students seem to adjust to the life of being in college they also start to relax more obviously, like wearing their pajamas to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and even to class!"

These are just a few examples of simple differences, you will notice more subtle differences yourself as time goes by, and more obvious ones will be clear to you from day one, like the educational system. If you ever have questions about incidents or behaviors that you encounter, please ask questions! If you don't feel comfortable asking your friends or roommates, feel free to ask anyone in the Office of International Education. We love answering these questions and trying helping you to understand the reasons behind any differences you may encounter.

Willamette University

Office of International Education

Global Learning Center
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

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