by LIZ TOBIAS
1st Year MM Jazz Vocal Performance
My name is Liz Tobias and I’m an international student. Even though I’m originally from an English-speaking country that is fairly similar to the USA, you’d still be surprised at how challenging life can get when dealing with a new culture on a daily basis.
I have so many funny and awkward culture shock stories from my last eight months of living here. The issue of trying to figure out when and how much to tip in restaurants is always a problem and I’ve almost been hit by cars driving on the “wrong side” of the road. Everyday I get caught using Australian expressions and slang that only about four other people at NEC would understand, and if I talk in my normal accent and speed, my friends politely listen to me while secretly wishing there were English subtitles playing above my head.
American culture can be crazy at times and Boston is certainly no exception to that rule. Here are a few tips to help you out in your overseas adventures while you’re living the dream here at NEC…
MAKE RANDOM FRIENDS OUTSIDE OF YOUR USUAL CIRCLE
I love the art of conversation and will talk to anyone who crosses my path. It’s fun to be curious about other people and find out what goes on in their world. Get diverse with your friendships!
All you have to do is ask people how their day is going! You’d be surprised where and how you can make new friends, and it’s refreshing to have non-musicians as friends! GASP!!!
BECOME FRIENDS WITH ALL THE COOL PEOPLE IN THE STUDENT SERVICES OFFICE
Every now and then I visit Mary Louton, Rebecca Teeters and the cool dude, Jeremy just to say hi. They are never opposed to chocolate and will always be up for a friendly chat. (They’re also totally amazing at the visa stuff if you need help!) If you visit, say hi and tell them that Liz sent you!!
DON’T COUNT THE DAYS UNTIL YOU CAN GO HOME
Embrace living here in this fabulous city. Be present and try to make the most out of every day in this international experience. Start thinking about home around 14 days out from your departure; you’ll certainly feel the difference!!!
It’s ok to let go of your home country a little bit and embrace America. It doesn’t have to be forever, but sometimes it’s nice to enjoy the moment and make the most out of what’s happening right now.
Try to convince a local NEC friend who drives to take you out of town for the weekend. Go skiing in Vermont or antiquing in New Hampshire. Get out of Mass and see the USA!!! I’ve heard that there’s a super duper Six Flags roller coaster park only two hours out of Boston, not to mention that little city known as New York.
American movies are fabulous for practicing English and learning about crazy Yankee traditions. You’ll understand your American friends better after watching a movie or two… My entire understanding of American Christmases come from watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation… haha!
Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America is a classic and one of my favorites; it’s also hilarious for your personal American cultural studies.
COOK YOUR OWN FOOD
Invite your NEC friends around for an authentic traditional meal at your place. You won’t need to worry about tipping or being checked for I.D., even though you look 30. Your friends will appreciate a home-cooked meal for once and you’ll love the company. You could even create your own Master Chef type fun and get a little crazy with the knife set.
GET OFF CAMPUS
Go out to lunch somewhere other than the Bistro. Try taking the bus out to Harvard Square or the T to the Boston Common to sit with the little ducks for a change. There are some incredible places to eat in Boston! You can pick any culture or style of food and go nuts! YUM!
SKYPE SKYPE SKYPE SKYPE SKYPE SKYPESKYPE SKYPE SKYPE SKYPE SKYPE SKYPE
We know how hard it is to balance living across two countries at once. The debate is whether it is easier being 4 hours behind or 15 hours ahead. For myself, Australian vs USA time zones are nasty and I could only imagine how hard the differences between Europe, Asia, Africa or South America are. Just give yourself a break and remember that you’re doing the best you can. Your family and friends back home will understand and love you even if can’t Skype them as often as you’d like.
GO SEE A SPORTS GAME
For a conservatory full of music nerds, you’d be surprised how much each one of us could enjoy a live sports game. I’ve attended a few Celtics games this season and the entertainment on that night out is so worth it! You might even get a cheap ticket for $20 online.
Figure out which season has which sport and get your friends together for a game. If you’re tight on the financial side of things, get everyone to come to your place and make some noise watching a game.
IT’S THE SMALL THINGS THAT COUNT, SO EMBRACE THEM!
Culture shock is made up of the little changes in detail causing you to feel overwhelmed. While you’re here, embrace the imperial measurement system and the use of Fahrenheit. Enjoy cars driving on the wrong side of the road and American money looking all the same (Seriously America… you think that you’ve got $41.16 dollars in your wallet, when you’ve really only got $4.16!!) This will be the only time in our lives that we’ll ever need to know this stuff and one day, when someone asks you at a trivia night back home if you know how many inches are in a foot, you can answer with conviction! 15….. right?
Lastly and MOST importantly, in order to
survive NEC on a visa, you need to become great friends with the people at Unos! My friends and I have decided it’s the fourth building of NEC. It’s a black hole where time ceases to exist and five hours later you’ll walk out feeling like you’ve experienced life-changing therapy! (Okay, I exaggerate a little.) It’s cheap and conveniently local.
If you go, say hi to my friend Janelle (she works Thursday and Friday nights) and tell her that Liz Tobias sent you! She might even let you eat the Snack Hour snacks out of hours.