So, a little fun fact about myself that many people know as my go to conversation starter: I lived in America for two years.
A rather important fact for me to disclose is that I am actually English, making the fact that I lived in America a little bit more interesting. I moved from Cambridge, England to Connecticut when I was 16 years old for a two-year period because of my dad’s work. I got to attend American High School for my junior and senior year and it was honestly the most incredible experience of my life to date.
Many people have discussed my move with me and given some interesting opinions. I have found that many people, despite acknowledging that it is of course a different country, believe that the cultures of America and England aren’t all that different. And yes, in some ways there are a lot of similarities between the two, mainly due to their shared history and language. However, one could not be more wrong in saying that there is not a distinctly noticeable difference in the cultures, the people, and the attitudes.
This is why I am writing about my experiences in the United States. Although I was only there for a short period, it was some of the most important time of my life, I truly believe that my time there and my experiences in the American culture have helped shape me as an individual. Further to that, the culture and the people there taught me things that I hadn’t previously seen or known about myself. The American culture helped me develop and thrive and I am happy with the person it has allowed me to become today.
The largest change that I actively noticed in myself after moving back from America is how much more confident I am in everything I do. Before moving, I struggled with being quiet and shy and it was always something that I wanted to tackle, especially entering an industry where voicing my opinion was such a key aspect. I found that when I was in America, there were lots of little habits ingrained in their society which encouraged people to speak up and be confident in what they were saying. Things like graded class participation and numerous class seminars, discussions, and presentations gave you no choice than to say what you were thinking. But more than that, while those activities forced you to speak up, the thing that truly gave me my confidence in speaking was the positive reactions all of my peers had to any public speaking. There were no snickers in the crowd or glaring eyes of disapproval, every person and every thing said was met with a kind regard and a smiling face. It made me feel so comfortable speaking in front of them that I completely forgot that it was ever difficult speaking in front of anyone! Now I am back in England and people praise me for my ability to speak in front of groups and I am so proud of how far I have come and amazed at how my time in America has shown me that I am able to be confident in myself.
Hard work has always been an important philosophy in my life. I have always believed that hard work can get you anywhere and everywhere you want to be. I have devoted my life to working the hardest I can in everything I do, in order to make the most I can out of life. However, America once again gave me a completely new outlook on this philosophy. After spending two years getting to know my peers and their families and other members of my town in daily life, I noticed how hard-working the American people are. It’s not just that they work hard at everything they do, they always give a little bit extra on top of that. Students are encouraged so strongly to participate in extra curricular activities and not only is this encouragement present, but they are enthusiastic to do it too. So many kids get involved in clubs and sports, attending every single day and also being active at home in these activities. And not only this, kids also host their own activities and events for huge groups of people, including both their peers and the community outside of the school. So many of the fun experiences I had were arranged by students and it made my time there so much more incredible, especially when I was able to get involved in them myself. The take home message I found was that it’s not only good to throw everything you have into something, but give a little extra and be enthusiastic about it. It will feel good and it will come back to you in the long run.
Now this is one of the most noticeable parts of the American culture that I can honestly say gave me slight culture shock when I first arrived. It is definitely the part of America that I miss the most now that I’m back. Every single person I met, in every single place, had the most amazing positive attitude. It was not necessarily that everyone was optimistic about everything all the time or in-your-face-fake-happy, but people were just always kind, tried their best to make others smile, and made good out of any situation they could. This was so refreshing, to come to a country where everyone had something nice to say and everyone looked on the bright side and worked hard to ensure their own and others’ happiness. I found that when you have a positive attitude, even when you’re having a bad day and all you want is to be left alone or yell and throw your books everywhere, if you just smile or decide to move on and look on the bright side, you would feel better and it makes it easier for everyone else to make you feel better too. It opens up the community in a way that reserved negativity will always limit it. It opens doors, and by being positive, you will probably end up encountering more experiences which will make you want to be positive anyway! Plus, I personally found it to be contagious and once again, oh so refreshing. Being in an environment where everyone has a positive attitude can make all the difference in the world.
Openness to New Experiences.
Finally, I have found that over the course of my time in America I have become much more open to trying new things and jumping to make and take any opportunities that come my way. I used to be a very shy person, as I discussed in the ‘confidence’ section, however this wasn’t just shyness to speak, this was also shyness to act. It was easiest for me to analyse situations and spend my time picking holes in them, so much so that I would talk myself out of opportunities or miss out on them because I took too long to decide. But watching my peers try so many different things, even if they had absolutely experience at all, nor any confidence a lot of the time, opened my eyes because so many good things came from it. If not a benefit from the actual experience, then a good memory, or at the very least, the knowledge not to do it again! Often, people emphasise the worst things that could happen in their mind, and forget about all of the good things that can occur from just trying something new. Even if you just end up laughing at yourself, it’s still a good time and a funny memory to share. If I hadn’t tried certain things while I was in America, then I would have missed out on so many things that I hold dearly to my heart now. So many groups of people and experiences that make me who I am could have just not been, had I not chose to try something new. Obviously, I’m not perfect, and I didn’t always try everything that I had the chance to. I do have regrets about not trying even more things while I had the opportunity, and because of this and my new revelation that trying things won’t often really harm you, I am dedicated to try (almost) anything that comes my way from here on out. There are so many opportunities to meet new people, learn things about the world and yourself that you didn’t previously know, it’s almost a crime to not try at least something that’s new to you.
Overall being in America has taught me what values are important to me and to my life. As cliché as it may sound, my experiences there and the people who I met have truly had the biggest impact on my life and I will cherish my American dream forever. I hope to bring the best of the culture to my life now, and continue working towards being the confident, hardworking, positive, and open person that I am today.