By Aakriti Gupta
Elm Staff Writer
Travelling 24 hours, thousands of miles, and across several bodies of water, the journey from Kolkata, India to Chestertown has been more than just a change in geographical placement. This move from one continent to another has been a lifestyle change and an introduction to an entirely new culture.
The first thing that caught my eye regarding American culture was the importance of self-reliance and commitment to yourself. Growing up in India I was always told to think of others before myself and give family the most importance. All my life I lived in a very protected community where I was almost taught to be dependent on people. In my experience, this was the biggest change that I had to adapt to. It was difficult in the beginning but surprisingly refreshing in the end, bringing very positive results. Being here, I understand that thinking about myself first was completely alright and accepted. In this process, I became independent. I went from being a girl who could not even go to restaurants alone, to a self-sufficient individual. I started valuing myself and my personal goals in life much more than before.
While Indians like stability in life, Americans love mobility. This was one of my other realizations while living in the US. Since the very beginning I had been raised to set a particular life goal and work towards it in a single direction without deviating. In other words, since I was 16 years old I was groomed to follow in my father’s footsteps to join the family business. I was directed to only take business related classes, as every other class was considered a waste because studying these subjects would not take me closer to my goal. I later realized how wrong this entire concept was. The liberal arts education here in the US required me to take classes other than my intended major, which at first seemed pointless. However, after completing one semester of studying classes like anthropology, sociology, and sciences, I understand the importance of being mobile in thought and choice. These subjects helped me understand the existence of different facets of cultures and societies, which in the grand scheme of things will help me to achieve my ultimate goal in one way or the other.
While I learned how to multitask and be pro-active on campus, I also learned how to let loose. Before coming here I would have considered myself as an extremely rigid person, and very apprehensive of trying new things. After several months in this country, I have learned how to get out of my comfort zone and enjoy gaining new experiences instead of being terrified of them. Before, I found happiness in limited things and described fun in very limited ways. This experience at WC has taught me that there are no boundaries for things to do for fun or things that will make me happy. While I keep my culture and education in place, I have embraced and welcomed all the changes and adapted to what was earlier a completely alien place that I now I call home.