Written by Alejandra Chapman
Edited by Holly Barr
I am in my last year of my undergraduate course in Public Relations and Communication. As a Colombia woman I am generally outgoing and very chatty. I think my personality is well suited to the PR industry. However, studying in another language is one thing but in another country with different culture to yours is even more challenging.
It has been an evolution of the real me, starting with a version of a shy Colombian woman in a British world who evolved into the person that I am now, I feel like I’m ‘back’ to the old me. Like the song “Whoa, I’m an alien ….oh oh, I’m an Englishman in New York” but in this case is I am a Colombian woman in Leeds
I feel very confident about sharing my ideas and talking with other people but something happened when I started my course. I went to lectures and seminars with a lot of expectations and very motivated to learn and participate. I always thought, “This is my dream and I want to nail it!” However and contrary to my thoughts; that feeling of a new students first awkward day became my every day. Everybody connected very well as if they had known each other for a long time. I was there with my bag full with enthusiasm but I didn’t feel I could open it. Everything was so new to me.
The tutor appears and said in very informal way: “Hi I’m Emily and I am going to be your tutor for this module….. We are going to do such and such during this semester… any questions?” then one girl said: “yes Emily, how we are going to be assessed…” What! How did she just call my tutor? Not even a Miss or Mrs. “X”. What is this lack of respect! What is going on here! Well, the thing is, back in my home country there is not chance that you call your tutor by her/his first name.
During my first day of class there was such a good environment and great connection between the tutor and my classmates. What did I say, classmates? Are they really my classmates? Are we really in the same class? They were in such a different place to me. The whole thing seemed so strange to me, that I didn’t know even how to behave. This chatty woman becomes speechless and without a clue what to do.
Every day is a school day. I was learning more and more not just about my course, but the British culture. It took me almost two years to feel that I could bring up the real me. The Alejandra that make jokes, share ideas and doesn’t feel shy about asking questions. This is my final year and I feel epic!