The Student Perspective: The shock and confusion that comes with being new to America
Oishika Hota, MS Media Innovation and Data Communication, class of 2024 Graduate, talks about her experience as an International student
One of the great privileges I have been offered is that of exposure. Starting from school all the way to graduate school here at Northeastern, every step I have taken has expanded my world significantly. But nothing has done the job like moving my life halfway across the globe.
Coming from Mumbai, Maharashtra, the most populous city in India, a land known for its vast array of cultures, languages, and traditions, I thought I had seen it all. However, the U.S. presented an even more intricate mosaic of backgrounds, beliefs, and practices. In India, a fusion of varied traditions and customs maintains its quintessential Indian identity despite the diversity. On the other hand, the US displays an intricate mosaic, presenting influences from diverse corners of the globe, resulting in a distinctive cultural mix. I feel like I am part of a melting pot, and navigating this diverse tapestry is one of my favorite challenges as an International Student in America.
Whatever I knew about the U.S. before landing here was from my consumption of American pop culture. As a fan of chick flicks, Legally Blonde and Pitch Perfect shaped the way I perceived the American Collegiate experience. Apart from that, I had also watched enough TV shows and movies to anticipate a lot of what was thrown at me: the small talk, the food, and the cold weather. When Mindy Kaling made New York winters seem warm compared to Boston in “The Mindy Project,” I knew I had to be prepared. But there is a difference between knowing something and actually experiencing it.
For all the small talk America offers, I had a lot of trouble making friends — especially as a graduate school student, where forming a community in a class full of people from several countries is, to put it simply, hard. Overcoming these challenges required me to step out of my comfort zone. I began attending social events organized by the university and joining clubs related to my interests. It was nerve-wracking at first, but I pushed myself to strike up conversations, even if it meant starting with a simple “hello.”
I’m not a hater of American food, but there are a few dishes that just don’t hit the mark for me. Especially when they’re missing that spicy, flavor-packed kick that Indian dishes usually bring to the table!
While ingredients and restaurants can be found in Boston, the cost of materials and lack of variety ends up killing the taste. Even though I have learned how to cook, nothing beats the taste of food cooked in your actual home.
The cold, again, was something I was mentally prepared for, but coming from a tropical country, acclimatization did not come easy. I could finish bottles of moisturizers, but I did not understand why my skin was still dry, why I was still feeling cold after wearing my thickest jacket, which brand would protect me the best, and why it was so dark at 4:30 p.m. Despite the struggle, I found ways to keep pushing through. You find little moments of joy, like a warm cup of hot chocolate, a cozy night in with your favorite food and a movie.
With practice, my problems have changed. I feel better prepared for my second winter here, I am ready for the lull and sadness that comes with the darkness. It’s about acknowledging that this period is difficult, allowing yourself to feel it, and seeking support when needed. Whether it’s talking to a friend or a professional, sharing the burden of these winter blues can make a world of difference.
But at the end of all this, the hardest shock hasn’t been cultural, but that of the magnitude of my homesickness. Being far away from the close-knit family and the familiar comfort of home is a struggle. Learning to adapt to a new culture is by far not an easy task. The difficulty is what has sparked resilience in me and pushed me to explore this new landscape; to develop a new support system despite the cultural and the often not-so-edible reminders that I am in a country that is not mine.
Moving away from home has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But it has also been one of the most enriching experiences of my life. It was a slow but rewarding process. As I opened up and made an effort to bridge the cultural gaps, the move didn’t seem so bad.
Looking back at the whirlwind of the last year, I’m giving myself a mental high-five. The hurdles and bumps were tough, but they’ve turned me into a stronger and wiser version of myself. And for that, I am immensely grateful.
Northeastern Grad Student Puts Together Art Auction for Ukraine
Daria Koshkina, a Northeastern graduate student working toward her master’s degree in digital media with a concentration in 3D at the College of Professional Studies, curated an online auction, The Art Auction for Ukraine, in collaboration with Boston Cyberarts, Digital Silver Imaging and BarabásiLab at Northeastern.
The auction showcases artwork of Ukrainian artists and will benefit two non-profit organizations that provide humanitarian aid to Ukrainians.
5 Ways to Get More Social Media Engagement
By Amy E. Smith.
Amy E. Smith is a content strategist and information architect. She teaches two social media courses at Northeastern, and currently works for IBM. (Her opinions here are her own.)
Whether you’re a seasoned social media veteran or just getting ready to launch your first social media channel, how to continually engage your audience in a meaningful way is a challenge that we all face.
Here are some tips that will help you get started or get back on the right track to create and maintain vital and engaged communities.
1. It’s not Just About the Content
Getting to know the communities you create via social media—who they are, what they like, what social media tool they like to use and how they like to use it—will help you build a strong foundation to effectively engage your audience.
For example, if you’re a baker, it’s safe to assume that your audience has visited your business or likes your product. If you’re a large high tech company, your audience is probably interested in learning new tech trends.
Having this type of insight from the get-go is important, because you’ll need to know the specific information your audience wants as you craft your messages.
2. Social Media is Social
Many organizations and businesses get caught using social media strictly for announcements and news. We need to step back and remember that social media is a conversation between you and your audience.
Build relationships with members of your community by connecting with them on a regular basis, seek out their opinions (see tip 4), chat about current events, and so on.
3. Add Value
Time is a valuable commodity. When you start a social media community, you’re asking members and potential members to spend their finite time engaging with you, instead of spending it elsewhere.
Providing them with coupons or rewards is a good first step, but also consider sharing knowledge. Teach them something you learned recently, or something that will enrich their knowledge. Make sure what you share adds value to their lives, and you can bet they’ll keep coming back.
4. Welcome Feedback
Getting more engagement can be as easy as making community members feel like valuable parts of the network. Just as any other community, members like to feel like they belong, and their voices are heard.
And the easiest way to get an opinion? Ask. Reach out to your community for their opinions on different aspects of your business, what they think about a particular product, or even their recommendations on improving services. You should also encourage community members to share their own knowledge and expertise with others – you should moderate the conversation, but you don’t always need to be the one to control it.
5. Have Fun
Last but not least, don’t forget to relax and have fun. Ultimately, you want to enjoy engaging your audience and you want your audience to feel the same way.
Do fun things that will not only highlight your services or products but also highlight or shine the spotlight on members of your community. This will make them feel welcomed and part of an exclusive group.
5 Tips to Improve Your Company’s Blog
By Derek Scheips.
Derek Scheips , MFA, is a faculty member in the Master of Science in Corporate and Organizational Communication and Master of Professional Studies in Digital Media programs, and a content consultant in a variety of industries.
Company blogs can be an effective way to humanize a brand and an organization. Blogs offer a chance to depart from the dreaded “corporate speak” of many traditional web site pages, so employees and stakeholders tend to get inspired to set up a blog.
And doing so is easier than ever, thanks to increasingly versatile templates.
But keeping a blog going with fresh and compelling content, not to mention keeping up with how most audiences now consume and share information, can pose complex challenges to companies of all sizes.
Here are some tips to keep a company blog on track and relevant.
1. No Currency without Currency
People make immediate judgments when clicking on a blog. Most blog entries are dated, so if your posts are not both recent and frequent, their value will be called into question and may be skipped entirely. Give employees who are your bloggers enough advance time to develop quality posts, but hold them to deadlines, otherwise the eventual posting may no longer be relevant.
2. See It, Be It
Blogging evolved from personal essay and memoir, and a finely crafted post with text and carefully selected links can still be compelling if informative or entertaining enough. But study after study shows that today’s audiences are far more likely to search for, click to, and experience content that has a visual aspect. If few people are visiting or staying with your posts long enough to absorb them, embedding pics, video clips, or other dynamic content choices can bring your blog new life.
3. Let Some Air In
Although promotion of a brand, its products and services, and even the people behind them, are to a certain extent expected (it is a company blog after all), delegate most of that sort of thing to its proper place (such as the newsroom) or formats (press releases) on the main web site. For repeated viewing, your blog can’t just be endlessly navel-gazing.
Encourage your employee bloggers to research and comment on bigger issues in your industry or the marketplace, and thus add value to a wider audience. Most of all, let people comment on the posts. Sure, there might be some negative feedback sometime, but transparency is the golden rule of social media, and the process can help you generate other posts based on questions and comments that come up this way, and all together may drive insights that improve the entire business.
4. Promote, Measure, Plan…Repeat
As suggested above, practically everyone is gung-ho at the start of a new blog, and it can be time-consuming for a team of bloggers to simply keep it filled with current material of interest to key audiences. The bad news? There are even more steps if you truly want the blog to catch fire and become something that keeps the conversation going online and hopefully offline (if you want it to have some effect on your business).
Besides the bloggers, your other employees need to keep up with the blog topics, contents, and share new post within their networks. Someone else needs to be monitoring and measuring the performance of the blog. And still another person or team need to think about using that data and feedback mentioned above to map out the future of the blog entries, and to continuously improve the blog as a whole.
5. Hey, Where Did Everybody Go?
If you are taking most of the steps outlined above, yet see clicks or viewership trailing off, you very well may be getting tripped up by perhaps the most challenging obstacle of all: the very nature of social media and overall audience preferences, as it evolves.
Though blog posts were once the fun, informal alternative to boring old corporate web copy, even when well done, or enhanced with some of the multimedia mentioned above, it’s now a reality that many viewers will inevitably view blog posting as kind of an “old-school” format to have to surf over to, when they could instead view or participate in microblogging on Twitter, view 6-second videos on Vine, look at pretty pictures on Pinterest, or linger on other visually oriented networks such as Instagram or SnapChat, or even get curated and ranked news on similar topics to your blog’s from Reddit.
Yep, your company, as well as your bloggers and employees, may need to have accounts on many of these emerging channels, if only to remind the thousands on them daily that your company blog exists and that it is worth the time to visit and experience.