Most college students think that their transition from high school to a university was stressful. Now imagine that transition but having to add the stress of picking up a new language and culture all at once. Many students at American universities go through this transition and have trouble maintaining their grades, social life, and mental health. It is a true issue that goes unnoticed by a mass majority of college students because they simply can not picture themselves in that situation.
For the subjects of my documentary, Jose and Jorge, they are living examples of this issue. Jose handled his transition with ease and Jorge was the polar opposite. Without the help of Jose and the guidance of a friend who went through similar issues Jorge would have ended up transferring or going home to Panama like many students from foreign countries do. Jorge and Jose have used the sport of football to bond in some unlikely circumstances.
In Jose’s situation he had played on some of the best teams in Panama. His high school team won four straight championships and they are so well known in Panama that they even bring in American scouts to offer scholarships. After losing touch with the game for years Jose was able to refuel his passion for football by doing just that for his new friend Jorge. Jose has had issues with his left knee since injuring it his senior year of high school. This injury kept him sidelined for some time and then once recovered Jose stepped away from football for some time. Mentally he was not interested in furthering his injuries for no reason. It took the company of a former rival of his to spark his interest once more. When Jose found out that Jorge was the quarterback he used to defend for all those years, he found the motivation to play again. He saw it as not just an opportunity to win a Penn State IM Championship but more as an opportunity to relive his favorite football memories with another Panamanian. With this new found edge Jose played a major role in his teams title run.
In Jorge’s situation football was his passion and one of the main reasons he came to Penn State (even over the education he would be receiving). His initial dream of walking onto the football team was part of the reason his first semester went awry but his passion came full circle and the bond he created with Jose through football was what helped him find his path once more and gain clarity. He urged Jose to lace up his cleats one more time and combine the most dominant offensive talent and the most ferocious defensive threat to play in their Panamanian league for the previous four years. Jorge’s excitement is what eventually persuaded Jose to come back to football and fuel their championship run.
Fate gave these two friends each other for a reason. It’s bigger than Penn State, it’s bigger than football, or even Panama. This story shows that positivity and open mindedness are the true avenues to a happy healthy life. For Jorge he was in a dark place and with an open mind and a positive outlook on his second semester he took a chance and rushed a fraternity. With that one decision he was able to meet another Panamanian and turn his college experience around completely. For Jose he was able to show humility and help somebody in need. He noticed Jorge’s lack of guidance and has presented himself as not just a friend but a leader. In exchange for his caring nature, Jose was given the gift of motivation again. His competitive edge was something that was lacking and seeing a Panamanian kid with such passion for football brought Jose back to his happy place. As you can see, it is not always easy for college students to transition. Especially when the transition is to a foreign country. But help can be found in some unusual places. It is most important to remain positive, keep moving forward, and have an open mind. Jorge and Jose are an example of the good that can come out of exemplifying these traits.
Students transitioning to college often have a difficult time at first but you would be surprised how often it happens to students from other countries. Culture shock is a real issue for exchange students and can often present itself early in these students college careers causing them to fail or drop out.
So what really is Culture Shock? International Student Insurance (an insurance company that covers international students healthcare for travel and major medical) defines culture shock as, “the anxiety that a person experiences when he or she moves from a familiar culture to an entirely new culture or social environment. It occurs when the language, gestures, customs, signs and symbols that you are used to and previously helped you to make such of your surrounding suddenly have no meaning or have new meanings. Perhaps most upsetting is the loss of social support system (family, friends, classmates, coworkers), and the necessity of starting all over again in an unfamiliar environment”
Below are some graphs to explain the different stages of culture shock that so many foreigners (not even just students) go through. Culture shock is very common and can effect anybody entering a new environment, not just those entering new countries. So be weary of the effects of culture shock and remember to keep a positive and open mind if you begin to feel negative effects like this.
“Culture Shock for International Students.” International Student Insurance, www.internationalstudentinsurance.com/explained/culture-shock-for-international-students.php.
“40% Of Foreign Students in the US Have No Close Friends on Campus: The Culture Shock of Loneliness.”Quartz, Quartz, 28 Nov. 2012, qz.com/31376/40-of-foreign-students-in-the-us-have-no-close-friends-on-campus-the-culture-shock-of-loneliness/.
“International Students and Cultural Shock.” Counseling Center, www.washington.edu/counseling/resources/resources-for-students/international-students-and-cultural-shock/.