I grew up in the city of Castellon, in a family setting where I was taught to grasp any chance I had to study abroad. That is what I did last year while I studied my degree in International Business in Valencia and here I am now, currently writing this article from the US.
I had the chance to finish my degree in UK, France or Germany but I leaned towards this beautiful and small city called Wilmington, located in the coast of North Carolina. Since I’m going to spend two years here, I have already internalized that this will become my second home forever; and I made the right choice. However, sometimes it is difficult to adapt to the many cultural differences we have with the Americans, and we have quite a few.
First of all, the education system is completely different. US establishes a system of constant hard work, where individual achievement is encouraged and well appraised. Every week, there are tests and assignments due to keep up with the classes. Professors are closer to the students and are more prone to help them with their study guides. Though I would say the most significant difference is class attendance, which is a requirement to pass the classes. If I miss three classes on any subject, I fail.
Nevertheless, this is not the hardest thing. I am taking my time to adapt to the food and the time to eat my meals. The fact that I barely eat fish (they might offer it once a month) or eating the same fruit over and over again is starting to be frustrating. Healthy food such as fish, vegetables and fruit are insanely expensive, whereas unhealthy food is at the reach of anyone. Compared to the Mediterranean diet I am used to eat back at home, this is a big change.
Moreover, it is surprising (or perhaps unsurprising) how the majority of TV advertisements are about food. I do not think I have watched a facial cream ad since I came here.
Additionally, one of the most shocking things I have experienced since I arrived here is the helpfulness and kindness of American people. From the first day on, they have always offered to help on any issue or challenge we might have or may encounter in the future.
But If I had to describe US society in one word I would define it as consumerist. Cars, food, electricity, or anything that can be paid for is used to the extreme. Especially the fact of never turning off the lights while leaving them on for hours, even days is bewildering; nonetheless, having the air conditioning inside every building at a 19ºC temperature is the worst part. The mid-east part of the States is way warmer and more humid than Valencia, so these brusque temperature changes confuse on what clothes I should wear at this time of the year.
Though, these are my experiences from living in the south-east part of the Unites States I cannot confirm if it is the same in the whole country. The States are huge and differences between the North and the South, as well as the West and the East are immense; but within every country we can find differences, and Spain is a good example for it.
I do not miss my home country, at the moment; this is a great country to study, live, or at least be in touch with a culture that differs from your own.
Albeit, here I’ve come to understand that nothing is better or worse in one place or another. Each country, has their own good and bad things and there is no “absolute better” or “absolute worse” anywhere, but just different. This is what I was told before entering into this adventure, it is the key word. The moment I understood this statement is the moment I completely opened my mind to the world that surrounds me.