Many news articles told me that culture shock has four stages: honeymoon, frustration, adjustment and acceptance. I think I skipped over the first two, disregarded the last two and created my own label: panic. I knew it was coming. But I thought I would be able to handle it as I had already lived in an international boarding school in Swaziland for two years.
I was wrong.
On the second day of New Student Orientation, we heard about Camel moments. A Camel moment happens when a Conn student realizes they made the right decision to come here and they feel at home. As current students described their Camel moments one-by-one, I sat in the middle of Tempel Green thinking about my life decisions as only a teenager can—dramatically. That day, I didn’t think moving 7,790 miles was a good idea. That day, I didn’t think I would ever have my own Camel moment, let alone experience one any time soon. That day, I just wanted to go back to my bed at boarding school.
Fast forward to August 29: the second day of classes and, also, my birthday. It didn’t feel like my birthday. It just felt like another day of wondering whether New England was always this hot. (We experienced a heat wave our first week of classes). I didn’t expect anything special this day. I was just hoping for an uneventful day of meeting my new classmates and professors. I got that part. And... I got a surprise party thrown by the other international students on campus, and later a birthday dinner with the international students and some of the upperclass students who live in my residence hall.
I didn’t think my day could get any better. But then my Camel moment happened. It came unexpectedly and when I least expected it. I mean, who would expect to feel at home when they’re doing homework? Being the second day of the semester, the first floor of Shain Library was pretty crowded and noisy. I was listening to music and slogging through the reading for my Comparative Politics class when I suddenly heard two people yell out each other’s names. They ran forward and engaged in a very rowdy hug.
Their happiness was contagious. I knew then. I knew that I would be fine.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed as an international student during the first week. Moving to Conn was scary for me because I wasn’t able to go on a campus tour, unlike most of my American counterparts. Instead, I looked at photos and read The Experience and tried to imagine what my life here would be like. The adjustment didn’t happen overnight. Orientation is a mixture of strange feelings and not all of those feelings are good ones. It can feel isolating not knowing anyone when you first arrive. But it does get better because Conn is full of ridiculously nice people. From sharing an umbrella during a thunderstorm with a senior I didn’t know to professors showing me the way to my classrooms, I’ve experienced unprecedented kindness that has started to make Conn feel like another home.