I have always been adventurous and passionate about international travel. When I found out about a scholarship opportunity from World Learning, I applied immediately. I wanted to experience different traditions customs, and cultures, make new friends, meet new people, and create different memories. Fortunately, I was among the successful applicants. I enrolled to study international business at the New York University Stern School of Business.
My experience for the two years I have been in America has been exhilarating. Before I came to the United Sates, everything I knew was based on what I saw on the internet, the TV and movies. In Serbia, there are several stereotypes about Americans. I have discovered that some of them are true on some level, but most of them are false. For instance, most Serbians believe that all Americans own guns and are inherently violent because of the movies they see. I have realized that the stereotype is fallacious as most Americans are peace-loving and some of them are opposed to gun ownership.
There are vast differences between New York City and Belgrade City. The first is the population difference. New York is a crowded city with a population of approximately 8 million people. In contrast, Belgrade’s population is approximately 2 million. During my first days in the city, I wondered how I would walk amidst all those people without bumping into them. I did bump clumsily into a few people, but most of them were understanding and forgiving.
The second difference is the cultural and racial diversity New York has to offer. In Belgrade, people from different racial backgrounds are likely to be diplomats or tourists; in New York, they are likely to be residents. I have made friends who are Africans, Indians, Chinese, Americans, and people from other European Countries. To make my interactions more fruitful, I have learned a word of two of their languages. I can now greet people in French, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, Hindi, and Swahili. The fast food culture is very popular here and most people are fond of eating in restaurants. In Belgrade, I was used to home-cooked food. I have succumbed to the fast food culture as I am usually too busy to cook.
The professors in America are very friendly and sociable with students. There are interaction boundaries, but they are not as strict as those in Serbia. The friendly class environment created by the professors has made it easier for me to participate in business classes and build my confidence. Getting part time jobs is easier than in Serbia. I have gotten several part-time jobs and earned supplemental income. The party scene is not as wild in New York as it is in Serbia. In New York, people mostly party on Fridays and weekends while in Belgrade everyday is a party day. The limited party life is fine with me because I have come to study not to party.
Most of the experiences I have had are good, but I have a few bad ones. My heavy Serbian accent was a major communication barrier when I first arrived. I grew up speaking Serbian and I only learned English when I was in high school. When I spoke to friends and classmates, I had to repeat myself twice or thrice for them to understand. I was also not familiar with American slang. One day a guy called me a chic and I told him to stop insulting me because I am not a child of a hen and a cock. I still experience culture shock because in Serbia people are warm, hospitable and sociable while in New York people are indifferent, aloof, and mind their own business. When my stuff runs out, I find it difficult to knock a neighbor’s house to borrow while in Serbia I could walk in without knocking. In spite of the few hitches here and there, my overall experience in New York has been enlightening and delightful.