Adjusting MyStory Mondays Project MyStory

Adjusting to a New Academic Culture: It’s a Different World

Image of a Blackboard with a map of the world

Adjusting to a new academic culture is never easy for anyone. It means stepping out of one’s comfort zone, learning new things, experiencing anxiety, pressure, and change.

Dating back to one year ago, I was a freshman, new to the country, the college, and the culture. My father sent me to my dorm. We moved my luggage, set up the room and then he took the bus to the airport. As I watched the bus drive away, my soul seemed to go with it. I do not even know how I got back to my dorm room, but when I got there, I found out that my face was full of tears. I opened the door and looked at the luggage and the empty room. At that moment, I cried out loud with a sense of oppression. I started to realize that from that point on, all I could depend on is myself. I was being pushed out of my comfort zone.

Image of a person standing alone in the street

Orientation came after that. With the goal of practicing my English, I told myself not to speak any Chinese with Chinese people. I imagined that all of the international students spoke bad English and knew nothing about American life. I thought that they complained about how cold the air conditioner was. I thought that they were like me.  However, the reality is way more tougher than I thought. All the people I met spoke perfect English and had already spent many years here. They knew to bring a jacket with them because of the air conditioner. The pressure came to me immediately from nowhere. I was scared to speak to people. I was scared people had no patience with my slow-talking speed. I was scared of people laughing at my poor English. I was scared of asking questions when I couldn’t understand, and I was even more scared that they would explain what they were saying, but I still would not understand. Indeed, I stopped talking to people. All the time I was alone, watching people laughing, talking, and walking in groups. I was stressed and anxious.

I knew nobody could help me at that time, and if I kept staying alone, nothing would change for me. I would always be alone. I started to talk to people first. After taking the first step, things went well. I made few friends, but still didn’t talk a lot. I only answered the questions people asked me and made awkward smiles to the English words I could not understand. I tried to start a topic but ended up facing my language barrier. Finally, they abandoned me. I realized I had to change.

When school started, there were many events that happened on campus. To be involved, I encouraged myself to go to the events that I was interested in. It was scary at the beginning – to go into a strange group alone. I would stand in front of the door, hesitate, leave, and come back, hesitate again, hold the door, stand there frightened, struggle, open the door, and repeat. It was a new and very different world. I met people from different countries and I felt the diversity of the world. I volunteered at a refugee organization which made me realize that there are so many people still suffering on this earth. I attended events that taught me how to make new friends.

When I look back on  my whole freshman year, it was challenging. There was struggle and  pressure. But  it was also full of experiences, happiness, and joy. It is a different world here at UAlbany and it is full of opportunities and fun if you can step out and adjust to it.

Are you a New UAlbany Dane?
If so, you are invited to our Dinner and Discussion Series where successful sophomores, juniors, and seniors share their stories about how they adjusted to UAlbany. Come for yummy food, great conversation, and a chance to win prizes. 

Flyer for the next Dinner and Discussion


Fall 2019 MyStory Student Volunteer Mengna

Class of 2022
MAJOR: Intended-Business
Student-to-Student Success Series
International Student and Scholar Services Orientation Leader

Established in March 2015, Project MyStory is a community building effort to help students better acclimate to UAlbany and to work more effectively toward their goals. We began in UAlbany’s Academic Support Center (ASC), where you will see many of the posters featured above. We are now co-housed in ASC and in the Center for International Education and Global Strategy (CIEGS).

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