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From Argentina to Albright: My American Experience

It was the start of a new stage in my life—going to college in America.

I had never been so far away from home. I was nervous and excited to face all the challenges I knew I was about to encounter. My parents were worried about me being so far from our home in Argentina, and they hoped the transition would be as smooth as possible.

All I can say is thank goodness for Albright for making that transition smooth, because our flight over was as bumpy as they come.

In 2004, when I came to the States, there were no direct flights to Philadelphia International Airport from Argentina. To get there you had to stop in Santiago, Chile; be a transit passenger in Atlanta, Ga.; and then fly to Philly with a domestic flight. As it is, it’s a long and tiring journey. But for us, it was worse.

A five-hour delay from Santiago made us miss the flight in Atlanta, and then we had to wait another six hours making our delay a total of 11 hours. Our first visit to the States and nothing went as expected. People were rude and unhelpful. My parents began to question whether sending me to college so far away was a good idea.

Finally, I arrived at Albright. It was already a Sunday afternoon. I remember parking in the main parking lot and heading to the Administration Building where I felt lost, like a fish out of water.

I hoped that there would be someone nice and kind to help us, and luckily, that was Albright. After meeting several people who went out of their way to help us, my parents decided that they had indeed made the right decision. I had found my home away from home.

Now that I was here though, learning the culture was my next challenge. Although I learned English back at home, it wasn’t enough for me to understand the nuances of the American language and culture.

I remember feeling very awkward every time I greeted a person I knew on campus.

In Argentina we put cheek to cheek together and give a kiss. In America, a hug is given if you are close, but you do not give the kiss. One day I almost made the mistake of greeting someone my way and the situation got so awkward that I just didn’t know what to do.

It was an instinctive reaction. But, I eventually learned to control the impulse. Thank goodness for that, otherwise I might have
been labeled a “weirdo,” a word I was also not familiar with, but find that many Americans use.

I still cannot quite get used to eating dinner at 5 p.m. For me, 5 p.m. is the famous “tea-time.” In Argentina, it was the
time I got back from school, had a little snack and did my homework. Dinner wasn’t until at least 8:30 p.m.
But, this concept did help me understand the “Freshman 15” theory. I gained a couple of pounds (and not
kilograms) in my first year because I would devour voraciously whatever crossed my path late at night,
even though I ate dinner at an earlier time. My parents could hardly recognize me when they saw me at
the airport!

My first Thanksgiving didn’t help the Freshman 15 situation either. My freshman year roommate, who was
American, invited me home to have Thanksgiving with her family. That huge turkey, the cranberry sauce,
stuffing and pies…it was amazing!

Learning about life in America has been both fun and challenging, and I still have a lot more of the culture
left to understand. But, being at Albright has certainly made my transition to American life a lot easier. The
experience has even convinced me to stay in the States. I plan to attend grad school here and someday,
find a job working for a government agency or as a university professor.

While I know my family misses me, I know they are happy I came to the States and mostly, that I found my home
away from home at Albright.

 

- Min Hee Lee ’08 is from Argentina.
She is a sociology major,
following a track in criminology.


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