My story is very similar to the experiences of many other recent immigrants in the U.S. Coming from the Middle East to the U.S. to study an exciting yet challenging life path. My identity and worldview have been affected by a series of different events, therefore in this essay, I will try to provide a summary of all events and in-depth analysis of three games that I regard as the most significant.
The event that influenced my life a lot was reading a primer on psychology recommended to me by one of my high school teachers. It helped me to understand a lot about myself and social dynamics. The most useful theory I have learned was the self-affirmation theory. Self-affirmation theory suggests that people can deal with threats to their self-identity by focusing on their self-worth and competence. I used this approach to overcome threats to my identity and achieve success.
I have always dreamt of entering a college, yet my family has not been supportive of my desire. Given that I come from a very traditional family, immigration to the U.S. has always been ruled out as an option to consider. I wanted to pursue a college education to build a career, and the possibilities for that were limited in my home country. My family was opposed to me going to college in the U.S. since they deemed it was inappropriate for a person from our cultural background. My family was well-to-do so that I would face no financial pressures in the future. At the same time, my desire for independence and self-actualization was powerful.
For several months, I tried to avoid an open conflict with my parents and tried to persuade them that education and work are essential to me. However, my parents found a young girl from our neighborhood for me to marry. At this point, I had to choose between family values and resisting the threat to my identity. My family told me they would not provide any financial or moral support if I decided to pursue the education in the U.S.
Knowing how competitive admission to colleges is, I was not sure if it was a good idea to start an independent life. However, I decided to focus on my strengths and competencies to affirm my identity. I decided that going to college in the U.S. is still a good idea. With the emotional support of my friends, financial support of my relatives, and continuous self-motivation and affirmation, I was able to achieve my goal.
After seeing me succeed, my parents accepted me back. They have realized that pressure and blackmailing are not efficient in influencing their son’s decisions. I believe that the most important lesson I had learned from that crisis was to follow my dreams and fulfill my ambitions rather than accepting authority unconditionally, even if it harms my interests.
Positive thinking and confidence helped me a lot in those turbulent times when I had no one but myself to rely on. It is important to remember, however, that self-affirmation should take a realistic approach to one’s abilities. Self-affirmation should encourage continuous learning and personal development instead then discourage it. Expectations and goals should be realistic and achievable for this theory to work.
There are many situations in life when surrounding people try to enforce a particular identity and lifestyle on us. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of one’s self and affirm one’s self through focusing on one’s self-worth that is derived from personal skills and strengths.
In the U.S., the differences between Western and Eastern cultures have become evident to me. Given the multicultural nature of the American nation, I have not encountered any direct discrimination or intolerance; however, I had problems with adjusting to cultural norms and everyday lifestyle of Americans. It is not surprising that persons from other cultures encounter difficulties in the process of integrating into the American society, yet I believe that I faced more problems than many other immigrants.
In college, I was respected for my academic achievements, honesty, and desire to help. Unfortunately, I was unable to integrate fully into the social life of my classmates. I had problems making nodding acquaintance and starting small talks. At the same time, I honestly treasured friendship and was spending long hours talking to my friends and relatives back in the Middle East on a messenger. My society favors long-term orientation, while Americans are more easygoing and excited about meeting new people. The event that influenced me a lot was discovered that there is a community center for Middle Eastern immigrants near the place where I live. The center hosts a variety of cultural and networking events that I regularly attend now.
Another problem with social integration was that I was not perceived as a “party person”. I was very anxious about breaking camp or traffic rules and preferred not to drink alcohol. Although the general attitude towards me was friendly, I could not develop a feeling of belonging.
As concerns private life, I could only think of dating persons from my cultural background. This can be attributed to my views on gender roles in the society: in the Middle East, women are supposed to adhere to strict decency rules and be consenting rather than proactive, while males are supposed to be decision-makers and supporters. However, at one of the events in the Middle Eastern community center, I met a young woman who has been born in the U.S. yet has not lost his cultural connections. We have been seeing each other for several months; although our relationship might not lead to marriage or anything of that sort, emotional warmth of the relationship has been vital to me.
I believe that my life has been exciting and fulfilling, but the best is yet to come. I am looking forward to building a career after graduation and getting more and more integrated into the American society as the time goes by.
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