Column: Culture Shock


From island food to Southern cooking. From having only three local fast-food chains to having every fast-food chain imaginable. From living two minutes away from the beach to living four hours away from the closest beach.

I’ve experienced quite a change since 2011, when I came to the United States from Saipan, a small island about 12 miles long and 6 miles wide. After a 35-hour flight (with connections) from Saipan to Greenville, S.C., I was way beyond my comfort zone.

My experience was frightening at first. I grew up with some form of American culture (along with Filipino and Chamorro culture) but still found everything in the States so different from the island. But why was everything so different, so frightening?

Well, to begin, I had never been so far away from home. The farthest I had ever been away from home by myself was a 45-minute flight to Guam. And the stay there was only about a week. This was much different. A 30-hour trip across the Pacific Ocean and across most of the United States brought me here to South Carolina. And this stay was not just for a week. Frightening, some might say.

And I didn’t really know anyone here. It did help that my best friend came with me to the States and that my brother was already here. But I still felt afraid — I knew only two people in a city that seemed to hold more people than the population of my island.

But the culture shock and frightening experiences didn’t last long. God blessed me with so many friends who helped me find a home in a place that seemed so foreign. Friends who helped me understand American culture more clearly and who were interested in my culture dispelled my fear of the bigger world.

When I first came here as a freshman, I didn’t know what to do. I came to the University to study. That was all I knew. But the friends God placed in my life showed me there was more to this foreign world. A couple of friends took me out to soccer games (something I enjoyed so much back in my island) and took me off campus to see the city. Through their help and friendship, I was not so frightened. Now I consider BJU’s campus my second home.

Culture shock. You may never experience it, but there may be people around who have. Calm their fears. Be a friend. And help them see that this world, so different for them, can still be home.