One of the most surprising experiences for students participating in the Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI) program is the exploration of many new cultures, and not just those of Americans! Our program welcomes students from 12 different countries, allowing for insight to culture all around the world. Here, Gul Nosheen from Pakistan who is studying Early Childhood Education Development at Pierce Community College through NWCCI, shares a few cultural experiences that surprised her after only a few months into the NWCCI Program.
I am Gul Nosheen from Hunza Pakistan; my field of study is Early Childhood Education Development. I am delighted to study here with peers from all around the world; this is a great opportunity for all of us. Since arriving here; I already feel the evolving changes in myself every day. The NWCCI gives us a great opportunity for learning, which is not only about the education and knowledge from within the class room, but more about experiencing and learning while exploring a new world.
After 27 hours of travel from Pakistan, I landed in the Seattle airport. I waited for my luggage and still remember thinking; this is either my fantasy or reality. The surprises began from within the airport, it was 5 o’clock in the evening, but the sun was still there in the middle of the sky. I was stunned! My host family was there to welcome me and it made them laugh, I was surprised again when getting into their car, that I was about to sit in the driver’s seat, I had never seen a car with steering on the left side!
Whenever I attend the activities of NWCCI, it seems to me like a flowerbed with various colors of flowers with their own unique qualities. Everyone has different ideologies and principles, which distinguish them, but they stick together like a clan. Many times their cultural practices, ideologies and living styles amaze me – like how the gigantic Egyptian pyramids were built – I thought that some heavenly powers helped to build them- masterpieces in ancient times when there wasn’t any technology. This story I learned from my friend from Egypt (Samah Halal), who shared with me how the people get mud from Nile River and mix it with sand and put that paste on the top of the pyramids, and how they piled big rocks and let it become dry and built it step by step that way.
I usually think about different cultures and imagine those cultural practices in my country, I create fantasy productions in my mind. I think some of the cultural practices are beyond my imaginations, like the funeral rituals of Toraja. Our fellows from Indonesia (Otis kafiar Fernandes and Jontniel Sukarno Adi Putra) shared with us that, when a Torajan dies, family members of the deceased are required to hold a series of funeral ceremonies- known as Rambu Soloq, over many days. During this time, the deceased is not buried, but is stored in a traditional house under the same roof with his or her family. Until the funeral ceremonies are completed, the person is not considered to be truly dead, but merely suffering an illness. The dead relative is referred to simply as “a person who is sick” or “the one who is asleep.” Occasionally this could even last several years after death; depending on how long it takes the family to raise money to buy 100 buffaloes and 100 pigs. Their ceremony begins when funeral visitors attend a buffalo slaughtering field; family members are required to slaughter buffaloes and pigs as they believe that the spirit of the deceased will live peacefully thereafter.
On the very first day of my first quarter at Pierce College among American students, I was surprised to find a woman of approximately 80 years old, studying with us! It was again a big surprise for me that people over here never want to be dependent, rather they like to sit in a classroom and get knowledge at any age. I realized that people never get old in United States, not only in terms of seeking knowledge, but the trendy styles of living their life. I am really amazed to see the blue eye shadow, red nail color and purple hair of older women everywhere, no one considers themselves old enough to rest at home and depend on others.
Many other things are here to make me wonder and convince me to say, “Wow!” like photo booths, and like the excitement of hot tubs in our new apartments, or going grocery shopping independently. My Indian friend (Pravalika Gampala) taught me her cultural dance called “Bharata Natyam,” which I have only seen on television in my childhood. Dancing is great fun and a new way of learning and experiencing another culture. I learned how to ice skate for the first time; I fell down at least ten times, but that is also part of my learning. And I’ll never forget my surprise birthday party by my NWCCI friends, or listening to the echo of my own scream while in the roller coaster, and on the “Evolution” ride, which was breathtaking, and fun too! I felt a mix of feelings; it was scary, and thrilling!
I also discovered, while visiting the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church during the 54th Tacoma Greek Festival, that the church was more than one hundred years old, and the more amazing part was that the pastor of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church is from the town in India, Gujarat!
I am sure tons of surprises will be there for us until the end of this great journey. It’s not about only the systematic and organized way of life in United States, but the love and care from our instructors and coordinators, which means a lot and has surprised me in my journey.
Be hard working and try to enjoy every second of life and be more and more productive each day, this is what I learned from the United States.
The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The opinions expressed in this blog by writers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Northwest Community College Initiative program, Edmonds Community College, Whatcom Community College, Pierce College, the United States Department of State or any employee thereof. NWCCI and Edmonds Community College are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied by student bloggers.