by Rachael Ramchand
Foreign. The word I use to describe many things I see or experience on a daily basis as I’ve begun my college journey. From the music to the food, and the norms and values of American society, I must say I have obtained a bit of a culture shock. Don’t get me wrong, I love living here, being on my own, making friends with people I would’ve never knew existed if it was not for this big move. However, I do crave my local dishes, music, the people and their beautiful ‘sing-song’ dialect accents of Trinidad and Tobago.
Trinidad and Tobago, the land of sweet Soca and Calypso – two related genres of music that resonates within the bodies of my people as it brings the country to life. Hearing the beating of the exquisite steel pan in the background while the artist’s voice belts out that distinct dialect accent in song, is what I miss most. In many places, the quote “music tends to bring people together” is very popular, however in the Caribbean, I believe that it is the multicultural influences that bring us together, which creates this music. I truly admire and yearn for that connection I feel with the crowd of people around me, all of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. That’s the thing about my country, no matter what religion, race or cultural background you are from, you’d always be invited to an event that wasn’t necessarily of your belief. It’s the diversity of the country that grew you up into respecting and showing your support of each other’s.
These are just a few reasons why it may take me a while to settle in, but after growing up on these small twin islands for 18 years, I’ve developed a desire for more, something new. New experiences, an expansion of knowledge, lusting for that sense of fulfillment that you can only get once you take that extra leap of faith. That’s exactly what I did. I jumped, flew even — literally flying and moving to a country that I only really knew about from watching television, or from what I saw through social media. Adjusting to not only a new school, but a whole new country, can be pretty tough — well at least it was for me.
But alas, there is hope. Hope that you can move away from the initial shock, and towards the acceptance of where you are and your purpose for being there. I moved here to pursue my tertiary education, but there are other reasons as to why I am where I am. Not only do I want to do well in school, get a great job and become successful — I want to meet people, explore all 50 states and eventually the rest of the world. I want to experience new adventures, add knowledge to my brain that no textbook or professor can ever teach me and push myself to the limit. There are endless possibilities of what I can do in this world and of course, graduating is one of them.
Take what you have learned from your own culture and shed some light onto those who may not be familiar with it, as they have done with you. It can be easy to lose your identity in a place you aren’t familiar with, but hold onto those pieces of you, as they are the foundation of who you are. Of course, it gets upsetting when you’re the only one that can relate to something, or when you can’t, but don’t force yourself into adopting a culture just for the sake of being understood and accepted. Being a foreign student is hard, but instead of looking at all the challenges we face, let’s focus more on the perks of being one.
Rachael Ramchand can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org