Observations and advice on living in a new culture

By: Abdullah Alghafis – Graduate Student, Renewable & Clean Energy

Editor’s note: this is the second in a series of columns in which international students are invited to write about their transition to life in the U.S. To find out more information about this project and how to get involved, contact editor@udayton.edu.

Living in the United States has helped me become more thoughtful and rational with my decisions, as well as more aware of my actions. To be concise, I have learned the more freedom you have, the more problems that can potentially arise.
Moreover, I have learned about the U.S. government: each state has its own rules, and there is a difference between a state rule and a federal rule. In addition, each state has different customs.

One custom I was introduced to here is “tipping.” You should tip at every sit-down restaurant, because the workers do not earn a monthly salary, they earn an hourly salary. You should tip the delivery person as well as any time you go to a hair salon or barbershop.

My English has greatly improved even in a small city like Dayton, and continues to improve with the many opportunities UD has to offer. The clubs on campus are welcoming to international students and encourage them to improve their English and become more aware of American celebrations and culture. Moreover, I like how UD provides places for Muslim students to practice our religion with prayer on campus.

I’ve also found opportunities for personal growth in community service, which have helped me become more modest. I realize it is important to give back to as many people as you possibly can and help the less fortunate.

One of my favorite aspects of the professors here at UD is that some of them may disagree with my opinions and thoughts but they do not let a disagreement affect their respect for me. The students are helpful as well because they have helped me come to know every quality of a person, including work, school, and personality. All of these aspects make a person an individual.

I advise international students to ask many questions to their departments and present any concerns immediately. Do not be afraid to ask. Join international club and Campus Activity Board events and be involved with different organizations, especially the Graduate Student Association, to make friends.

Learn and listen instead of placing a high emphasis on educating others about your country. If you want to educate, use your country’s food as a way to start the discussion. Be patient when it comes to making friends and be considerate of American culture. Give more than you take. Ask each person about his or her city. This will help you understand them.

Learn about American basketball, baseball, and football. See yourself as equal to your peers. It does not matter which social class you are from. If you want to ask a question but you think your English is not very good, do not speak very fast. Do not hesitate to ask someone “Could you please repeat that?” if you do not understand the first time. And finally, do not agree and pretend to understand if you really do not – use it as an opportunity to learn about yourself.