First Impressions: Thinking Green and Thinking American

By Erika Kurachi

I cannot believe my first week with the RISE program has already come to an end. Coming to Michigan State from Japan, it was enjoyable being able to connect with American people and culture through many activities in RISE. There were mainly three impressive things.

First, I learned how to talk in an American way, especially in a casual conversation. This is because I could talk with American native people and listen to their conversation a lot. Still, my English expression is very limited, but by listening to American people talk, I could learn a lot of things this week. For example, the way of greeting is very different in comparison to Japanese communication. In Japan, we dislike to have a conversation with strangers. For instance, when people meet others in an elevator they simply bow to each other and use very few words, such as ‘Good Morning’. However, in America, people always say ‘Good Morning. How are you doing?’, ‘See you. Have a good day’ and similar phrases. It may just be considered a social norm to do so, but I felt that American people enjoy talking with strangers who have different customs or values. I personally assume that this difference results from the diversity within the United States of America. I want to get used to the American system and realize the American way of thinking.

Second, I found that people in RISE and MSU are very passionate about living together with nature. For example, Bailey Hall was constructed considering the effect it would have on nature. Near the hall, there are many facilities to cultivate crops. I helped garden on August 3rd with Victoria and other RISE members. They are students almost the same age as me, but have a lot of knowledge about gardening. It was surprising to hear that they started it just one or two years ago. I felt that they cultivate them as a way to thank and give back to nature. Also, in MSU, people classify garbage in many ways. I felt that many people recognize that just small steps are important to protect the earth and live eco-friendly.

Third, what struck me most was that American students consider social problems deeply. When I went to a sandwich shop for lunch, I asked a question about the presidential election in America. Then suddenly, other students who were sitting at the table close to us joined our talk. They are students from Egypt and were very worried about which candidate will become the next president. They seemed to oppose Trump mainly because he suggested that immigrants should go back to their own countries and this policy bothered them severely. Victoria and the other students continued a heated discussion for about 30 minutes and I was surprised that they acquired such a detailed knowledge about politics and had their personal opinion to discuss with others. In Japan, very few young people are interested in politics. We rarely discuss social problems with friends especially during a lunch break. Most of the young Japanese think that they cannot change their society because most of the social problems are discussed and solved among seniors. In contrast, young Americans have a will to change their lives by speaking up. Still, I cannot see where the big difference comes from. Therefore, I want to develop an understanding of American culture within the next 3 weeks.

All in all, I obtained an initial sense of American culture. I really appreciate this experience with RISE, and I am looking forward to evaluating other aspects of customs, sustainability, and social affairs within this new environment.

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