The day I arrived in the United States I remember dimly. I hadn’t slept for more than 2 days (trip + rather long farewell party) and I could barely remember where in the world I was and why. I do recall long lines in the JFK airport; a border guard with a perfect set of teeth, his standard “What is the purpose of your visit to the United States?”, and my lower back ache from the 9 hour plane ride.
I remember the bustle and commotion: people rushing, talking, turning, shouting, eating. I remember getting dizzy from hearing different languages at the same time. “America is a country of immigrants”- I heard this before, it just never hit me what it really meant.
The other things that were extraordinary enough for me to notice (despite of my coma-like condition) were yellow cabs that for some reason kept beeping; tall glass buildings, billboards, humidity and some rather eccentric fashion choices.
My first night in the US I spent at Columbia University’s dorm. The dorm was the complete opposite of what I expected it to be. I thought I would see huge rooms with king-sized beds, leather furniture, soft carpet and TV/DVD sets. A nice mix of Marriott and Ritz hotel suits. Instead, I saw gray walls (which in their better times were white), a wooden military looking bed with a dark green mattress, one antediluvian chair and cabinets. My dream of a soaking bubble bath was brutally wrecked by the view of dirty shower stalls that were supposed to be shared by at least a dozen other tired and sweaty exchange students.
I thought everything in America was supposed to be cool (well, except food)…My dorm in Poland, where I spent 4 wild years, was much more sophisticated and cozy.
My culture shock began…