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One Cambodian’s experience of living in the US

130206 10
Photograph supplied

As I look out at the covering of snow reflecting the lights of cars and buildings, I am excited to have finally arrived at the Michigan airport in the famous “Land of the Free” – the United States – after flying for nearly two days.

This is the first time I’ve ever experienced snow falling. Before, I’d only seen it in the movies.

Under the sponsorship of the State Department of the United States, I am studying here as an exchange student at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, a state that borders Canada.

Because I have seen a lot of Hollywood movies back in Cambodia and talked to a lot of people who have studied abroad, I feel familiar with the culture here. I have not encountered any culture shock so far.

But even though I have seen many movies depicting the American way of life, the reality is not entirely the same as what you see on the big screen.

I have noticed that university students here are likely to keep to themselves, and they don’t seem to like getting involved with other people much. They seem to avoid making new friends with people from a different culture and appear unwilling to get out of their comfort zone.

It can be a bit difficult at first to make friends and be friendly because, it seems, “friendly does not pay”.

Although there are certain things I don’t really care for in terms of young people’s way of life here, the professors and staff are extremely friendly and helpful.

The professors here go out of their way for you.

They will do everything they can to help you achieve your goals. If you are finding a topic difficult, they will always be there for you and do all they can to help you gain the necessary understanding.

One of the first things I noticed when I arrived is the easy access to technology, which is a great help for students searching for the documents they need. Almost everything here can be found on the internet – from old archives of government documents to famous research journals and books.

This helps students avoid the worry of being restricted to the library’s opening hours.

All I have to do when I need to find an important research document for a paper is just go to my room and turn my laptop on. Everything is immediately at my fingertips.

After a month of studying in and travelling around Michigan state, I felt I had matured a lot and developed greatly by stepping outside my comfort zone.

Before, I had never dared to go on an adventure alone, but now I want to explore the world and learn all about it.

I hope that my entire generation has the chance to grab an opportunity like I did and learn in a foreign country.

Maybe they can pursue their studies even further than I have.

I also hope that advancements will continue to be made in research and technology so that all students can have the world at their fingertips. 

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