In the United States, going to college is an idea that is driven into our minds at a very young age. While we value higher education and furthering ourselves for a brighter future, we also put a strong focus on the social aspects as well. We have an ideal expectation of what college is supposed to be like, and we often disregard the fact that other universities around the world are structured entirely different than ours.
In Jordan and Egypt specifically, the chronic set up of institutions is entirely divergent than that of the US. While we usually begin in August and end in May, they are spread out either a month ahead or behind us. Another factor is residing on campus. For most universities, living in the residential halls is a requirement, and is strongly emphasized. For nine months (excluding the few breaks given), we are submerged in an atmosphere in which we are expected to branch out and involve ourselves within our community. Whether it be in a dorm, or other types of housing on campus, we are constantly surrounded by peers engaging in similar activities. This is not necessarily the case in the Middle East, as the majority of students remain with their parents during the course of their education. While many choose this option for financial reasons, it also pertains to their culture as well. Going out on the weekends and partaking in actions with people of the opposite gender is a typical occurrence across college campuses in the US, but it is not common for students in the Middle East. It is likely that people of different genders will be separated. While these are just a few instances where cultural differences can be seen relative to education in the Middle East and the US, witnessing them firsthand would be the ideal way to truly understand them.
An American Culture Shock
A university in the US set up interviews with three Middle Eastern exchange students to receive feedback about their experiences on their campus. While many of their responses were expected, others were not. I have personally gotten to know numerous people from various cultures on my campus, and I have had many explain to me in detail the feelings they had about not being genuinely welcomed. A young man in the video stated that Ramadan, a form of fasting celebrated by many Muslim areas, was not easy to continue in a campus that is structured on dining halls, and meal plans. This is not an element that can necessarily be changed instantly on our campuses, but it is one to consider. Another young man claimed that making friends in an unfamiliar environment was a struggle, as many people have a predetermined assumption before meeting them. They all agreed that they were scared before coming to the US, because of the violence they have heard of. I personally do not see the United States as a dangerous place overall, so this was a shocking statement. While judgments are typically viewed in a negative way, it only means that we have a lot to learn, especially from each other. Instead of fearing the culture shock, we should learn to embrace it.