First Impressions: Arriving, Getting Settled and Meeting My New Country

Learning cultures is my favorite thing to do. I enjoy interacting with new people very much. That’s why I am here, in the heart of different cultures congestion, in the United States of America. I have dreamed of studying abroad since my childhood and I am pretty sure that many students from different countries have the same feeling.

My name is Zhamal. I now live in the USA and study at Mira Costa College. I am 17 and I am here to make a difference in my life.

I will never forget my first day in the United States. I was so excited to come here. My friend Kasiet and I had a long trip to California via London. We arrived at the Los Angeles airport at 9 PM. We found our friend who was supposed to meet us at the international terminal, and we headed into the city.

Los Angeles at night
Los Angeles at night (Photo: Flickr user Mozul)

Los Angeles is an amazing city, especially at night when it is sparkling with lights all around.

Two days after leaving my home town I got to my college town of Oceanside, California.  I went to International Students’ Office and I met with my counselor and some other staff working there. They were very nice people and they tried to help me in many ways. It’s very important to set up a plan for the first semester, to choose the right classes for your major, and the counselor is always willing to help students with those sorts of things (or even with how to find the right bus).

During this short while I was away from Kyrgyzstan for the first time, I felt I had learned one first very important thing for myself. That is: always ask questions, otherwise you don’t get what you want – or at least, otherwise people won’t know what you want.

The next hurdle was getting registered in my classes for the fall semester. It was hard to find available open classes that I should take for my major as I started registering late – just 3 days before my classes started. Most of the other students had registered much further in advance, but I could not do this beforehand from my country. Finally and hopefully, I got registered in 3 basic classes (Math, English, and Accounting) for the fall semester.

Then my first college classes started! Of course, the first day at a new place is kind of weird, because you don’t know anybody, but I quickly got used to the college’s atmosphere meeting new friends.

At my college there are so many students of different nationalities. It was quite exciting to meet people from all around the world. You find many interesting things to talk about, and I ended up talking a lot about my own culture and tradition because most of the students I met had no idea about my country. My new friends got interested to know more about our culture and traditions. Now I understand how it is amazing to represent your own country and explain many things about it to people who have never heard of it. It made me proud of being a representative of my little country here in the US.

So far I have found that people living in the US are very friendly and communicative. What is immediately notable is that everyone is smiling to you, saying “hi,” wishing you to have a good day and asking if you need help (especially in stores and markets). I like being in such a friendly atmosphere very much. In my home country it is different. People seem to be too busy with their own things and are rushed too much. We also do not have this “smiling” culture.  We do have friendly and good people in Kyrgyzstan too, but it seems now to me not as much as here.

In conclusion, I would like to say that it is wonderful to be an international student in a foreign country like USA. And I am pretty confident that I will succeed with my dreams and I will do my best to help other students like me by giving my best advice and suggestions.


  1. nice blog, I like it !
    Zhamal, what about spelling of your name?
    your father is using Jamal, instead of Zhamal, you are using both “Jamal” and ‘Zhamal”.
    Combination “Zh” in names looks strange for Americans.
    For example, many people in the US had problems with spelling and pronunciation of my name “Zhanay” during my study in the US.
    That is why, I simply use nickname “J”, or “Jay” instead of Zhanay.
    Nick-, or short-, names, are very popular in the US and Canada. For example, Bob for Robert , Bet for Elizabet, and so on.
    I am in Canada at present. I have same issue with pronunciation and spelling of my name by the Canadian.
    Simply I am using Jay Sagin at present.
    Also we named our son Adam Jay Sagin to make easy in recognition.
    Good luck in your study

  2. Jamal: We are so glad you are studying in the U.S. Judy and I are friends of your Dad and met you years ago in your home in Bishkek. We hope you can visit us on one of your breaks at our CO ski condo as your Dad has. Perhaps your Dad could arrange for your whole family to come at the same time. Regards, Bud Robinson (E.B.Robinson, Jr.

  3. Jamal, you are having great experience! As the world is getting truly global now, I am sure that you are going to be very successful and lead the world to prosperous directions.

  4. Janim Jamal I believe one day your dreams will come true…I’m proud of U…I hope your life experience will help U…to find real answers to all questions which U keep insight your heart…Love & Hugs!

  5. Welcome to the USA! I remember studying abroad myself in Australia and being amazed by all the friendly people over there too. This will be a truly life changing experience and the friends you make during your time over here will be with you forever. Enjoy your time here, and be sure to keep a journal, time flies!!

    best of luck,

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